The BMPA’s comments were in response to remarks made by environment secretary Michael Gove in an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee evidence session last month.
A BMPA spokesman told Food Manufacture: “Michael Gove’s suggestion that food manufacturers would be expected to foot the bill for their EU employee’s certificates to remain in the UK would be yet another body blow to our industry, which relies heavily on migrant workers.
“A large percentage of the workforce – an average of 70% – comes from the EU, due to an inability to attract local British workers into these jobs.”
With Britain’s meat industry typically working on margins as thin as 1%, the BMPA warned it was extremely sensitive to any change in costs and pricing – be it increased staff costs or the disruption and barriers to trade the Government’s proposed tariff and customs arrangements could cause.
Questioned on the cost of keeping EU migrant workers certified to continue working in the UK, given a no-deal Brexit, Gove said: “I’d expect, in many cases, it would be the employer [that would 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.”
This cost, about £225 per person, would be multiplied across the 50,000 migrant workers currently employed within the UK meat industry.