May says food & drink’s 117,000 EU workers can stay

By Matt Atherton

- Last updated on GMT

Theresa May proposed to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK (Flickr/Number 10)
Theresa May proposed to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK (Flickr/Number 10)

Related tags European union Eu

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has welcomed Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal to safeguard the rights of non-UK EU citizens living in the UK.

The sector’s 117,000 EU workers were crucial to the food and drink industry, and May’s proposal was the first step to providing certainty of their continued right to live and work in the UK, the FDF said.

The FDF’s comments came after May last night proposed a “fair and serious”​ offer to the leaders of the remaining 27 EU Member States, to guarantee permanent “settled status”​ to 3M EU nationals.

‘Such a crucial issue’

FDF director general Ian Wright said: “FDF welcomes the prime minister’s proposals regarding the rights of EU citizens to stay, once we have left the EU. FDF ​[has] consistently made the case to ministers and officials, in the UK and EU. We are therefore pleased that government has listened to our members on such a crucial issue.

“We employ 117,000 EU workers within the food and drink sector and they play a vital role in guaranteeing the success of the £110bn ‘farm-to-fork’ food chain. They are hugely valued, but in the past 12 months have lived under a cloud of uncertainty. It is time to allay their fears.”

The government will reveal further details of its proposal on Monday (June 26), it said. The FDF looked forward to hearing the further information, and urged negotiators to resolve the issue quickly.

‘No-one will have to leave’

May’s proposal was subject to reciprocal guarantees for UK citizens living in the EU. Arriving for the second day of the EU summit today (June 23) – and on the first anniversary of the Brexit vote – May said: “I want to reassure all those EU citizens who are in the UK, who have made their lives and homes in the UK, that no-one will have to leave, we won’t be seeing families split apart.

“This is a fair and serious offer. I want to give those EU citizens in the UK certainty about the future of their lives, but I also want to see that certainty given to UK citizens who are living in the EU.”

But, co-leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas slammed the proposal as “a bargaining chip”​ on Twitter.

Lucas said: “This doesn’t end uncertainty facing EU citizens who have made their home here. Shameful Theresa May; still using them as bargaining chips.”

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