Speaking at a Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum last month, British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) chief executive Nick Allen said there was concern among members about the impact of Brexit. He explained that the food industry was heavily reliant on migrant labour, regardless of any technological progress.
“The act of boning an animal cannot be replaced with machines, and we as an industry are incredibly reliant on overseas labour, with a huge proportion of the workforce in British plants coming from other countries,” he said.
Recent BMPA research revealed that an average of 63% (rising to 80% in some cases) of production staff in meat processing plants were from the EU. He also expressed concern that 85% of official veterinarians employed to audit abattoirs in the UK were EU nationals.
Even if a Brexit deal were agreed, he added, many technicalities would still have to be negotiated. “Three years ago, we agreed a deal to export pig trotters to a third country and, since then, no trotters have gone to this market from the UK due to red tape around technicalities,” he said. “The signing of any deal is just the start of a process that could go on for years.”