FDF director general Ian Wright said the uncertainty around EU workers’ rights had led to many leaving the UK, with many more considering their futures here.
“The negotiators must put the politics to one side and focus on the people – without whom, we would be unable to feed the nation,” said Wright.
“FDF was the first trade association to call for the right for all EU workers to remain. It is of concern to industry that after many rounds of talks, we are yet to see concrete progress. This does not bode well for the many other thorny issues on the table.”
‘Many other thorny issues on the table’
Wright’s comments came as the fifth round of talks between Brexit secretary David Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier came to a close yesterday.
Barnier said there had not been enough progress to move to the next stage of Brexit talks as the UK wanted. While he said there was “new momentum” in the process, there was still a “deadlock” over how much the UK would pay when it exited the EU.
Wright called for the UK government to unilaterally agree the rights of EU workers that had chosen to make the UK their home.
“It’s been almost four months since the prime minister set out her offer for EU citizens to stay in the UK,” Wright added. “For the individuals and their families, this is a desperate scenario.”
‘A desperate scenario’
Speaking at the Processing and Packaging Machinery Trade Association show earlier this month, Wright warned that restrictions on EU workers coming into the UK was likely to be one of the thorniest problems for food and drink manufacturers after Brexit.
There would be a high churn of workers within the food and drink industry, which could not be replaced by workers from within the UK.
“Large parts of the UK have zero unemployment, meaning there are no available workers. Manufacturers simply cannot find the workforce,” said Wright.
Meanwhile, a lack of migrant workers to process orders could put Christmas 2017 under threat of ‘grinding to a halt’, warned a warehouse equipment supplier, while the Freight Transport Association (FTA) highlighted the danger of the lack of EU workers after Brexit.