Brexit objectives must be defined - Thorne Widgery

Leaders from the UK food and farming sectors have united to sign a manifesto setting out the principles that can help ensure Brexit is a success for the supply of food in the UK.

More than 1,000 leaders representing farmers, growers, manufacturers and retailers have drawn up the ‘UK Food Supply Chain Manifesto’ that sets out the need for positive outcomes on trade, labour, regulation and domestic agricultural policy, once the UK leaves the European Union.

One assurance the sector would like is that they will still be able to recruit enough workers from the EU after Brexit, and leaders are currently urging the Government to publish a White Paper setting out its immigration plans “as a matter of priority”.

The sector will be able to recruit EU citizens until December 2020, but the industry is concerned about the impact on seasonal labour once the UK has left the EU. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, had previously suggested that he would instigate a new Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS), but there is reason to believe this move has since been blocked.

Therefore, the manifesto says that as there is a “significant number” of EU nationals employed in the sector, it is vital that the Government “ensures a continuing, adequate supply of permanent and seasonal labour” both before and after the EU leaves the UK in March 2019.

Furthermore, the recruitment difficulties from within the UK mean that there must be a guarantee that, in the short to medium term, the industry has access to the overseas labour market.

It also asks for “frictionless” trade with the EU and an agricultural policy that promotes food production while maintaining existing high standards.