Employers to foot EU worker bill

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Employers could be expected to fit the bill for their EU workers. Picture from the Government's Parliament TV website
Employers could be expected to fit the bill for their EU workers. Picture from the Government's Parliament TV website
Food and drink manufacturers could be expected to foot the bill to keep their EU migrant employees in the country once the UK leaves the EU.

At a review of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra’s) preparedness for Brexit, secretary of state Michael Gove was asked whether it was acceptable for migrant workers to have to pay a charge required to certify their ability to stay in the UK – understood to be about £225 per employee.

In response, he said: “I would expect that in many cases that it would be the employer ​[to pay]. As I’ve said a number of times before, there are costs to a no-deal exit that all of us need to contemplate before.”

When asked if Government should be the one to cover these costs, Gove said it wouldn’t be possible to cover them in a blanket fashion.

Less desirable

The threat of having to pay for this certification could make the UK an even less desirable place for EU migrants to work, with the plummeting pound and negative public reception already turning them away, according to Robert Goodwill, minister of state for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

During his interview with the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee, the Defra boss also discussed the implication of zero tariffs to goods being exported to Ireland, but applying tariffs to other members of the EU. This move would be despite World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, which state tariffs should be equal to all countries the UK exports to.

“We believe there is specific exemptions because of the broader political and security situation in Northern Ireland underpinning the Good Friday Agreement, which mean we can be allowed to do everything that we can,”​ said Gove.

Frictionless border

“Of course, we couldn’t keep this situation indefinitely, but we can do everything that we can for a period in order to maintain a frictionless border. It is certainly a case that other countries could have an arguable case at WTO – Other countries could choose to challenge us.”

“We would expect any subsequent decision will be quite some time hence and we would hope that by that time we will have found a political and trading solution.”

Last month, the Food and Drink Federation warned that imposing tariffs on food post-Brexit could start a chain reaction that would be felt by every member of the food and drink industry.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, the head of one of the largest food processing trade bodies repeated his warning on the damage a no-deal Brexit could have on the meat industry,​ particularly in terms of labour.

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