As a no-deal Brexit looms, the BPC stressed that British poultry businesses were planning for a “crisis scenario”, which could see non-EU workforces drop dramatically and push food costs up.
The Council issued that if a no-deal Brexit were to occur, then non-UK labour could halve and it reported a sharp decline in these workers ahead of Brexit.
BPC chief executive Richard Griffiths said the British poultry meat sector was incredibly dependent on non-UK labour.
“Barriers to EU nationals working in the UK would be extremely damaging to the industry. We need that workforce to maintain productivity in our sector and contribute to UK food security during a time of uncertainty,” said Griffiths.
“In the case of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, our producers’ nightmare scenario is a massive loss of workforce. This will have a knock-on effect on the cost of production, which will affect the price of food. The latest economic modelling predicts prices rising by around 25% in the event of a no-deal.”
A no-deal Brexit, which has been put forward by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, would mean the UK would have to leave the European Union immediately, without the 21-month transition period agreed upon with Brussels.
The House of Lords reported that the UK would have to forfeit the £39 billion bill to the EU and the UK would have to quit the Agricultural Policy, which gives farmers £3bn in subsidies.
Griffiths added that the government needed to devise a food strategy that enabled EU nationals to fill vacancies in the poultry sector that could not be filled with UK workers.
“The Government must ensure that British food, and the quality it represents, stays affordable and available for all. If we cannot support our own production, then there will emerge a two-tier food system, with the average citizen forced to rely on lower-standard imports,” Griffiths explained.
“We want to work together with Government to develop a robust transition plan to ensure access to the workers we need and to avoid any disruption in the smooth movement of perishable products across the EU.”