Third of food businesses ‘unviable’ without EU labour, survey finds

36% food businesses ‘unviable’ without EU workers, survey finds
Credit: Vladimir Nenezic

A landmark survey from trade bodies has revealed that a third of food businesses said they would become “unviable” if they had no access to EU workers.

This is the stark warning from the Food and Drink Federation and other trade bodies into the UK’s £110 billion food and drink supply chain.

It casts new light on the sector’s Brexit priorities from a workforce perspective.

It also lays bare the severity of the situation that the supply chain faces without reassurances regarding the future of EU workers.

EU nationals number two million across the UK economy, with 20% of these workers employed across the food and drink supply chain.

Almost half of businesses surveyed said EU nationals were considering leaving the UK due to uncertainty surrounding their future.

A third of businesses said they had seen EU nationals leave since the EU referendum, while 17% said they would look to relocate overseas if they had no access to EU nationals.

As well as highlighting the severity of Britain’s post-Brexit future, the survey also includes a number of key recommendations to government.

In the short term, the survey calls on Government to legislate to secure the rights of EEA nationals currently living in the UK; review the recording of immigration data and recognise the strategic importance of the food and drink supply chain.

In the medium term, the trade bodies are calling on Government to build an attractive and effective migration system; ensure no cliff-edge when the UK leaves the EU, and to increase the efficiency through adequate Home Office resourcing.

For long term goals, the survey calls for investment in skills provision for the food and drink supply chain; support of access to hard-to-reach labour market solutions, and allowing benefits system to make flexible working easier.