Will the new immigration policy cause problems in the food supply chain?

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According to a new report by a cross-party group of MPs, Government must make changes to its new immigration policy, or risk increased food prices. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee published its conclusion to the ‘Labour in the Food Supply Chain’ inquiry in late December 2020, warning that Government’s plans to restrict UK food producers’ access to workers from Europe risks undermining their competitiveness, as they haven’t been given time to adapt.

Non-UK EEA (European Economic Area) nationals account for the majority of workers in key sectors of the food and drink industry such as meat processing and picking crops. As freedom of movement came to an end on 31 December 2020, the UK food and farming industries must make dramatic changes if they are to be compliant with the new immigration legislation.

Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Committee, said: “Leaving the EU means that the food supply sector will need to be weaned off its reliance on European workers. This could be a great opportunity for UK workers in the long-term, if employers are forced to improve pay and conditions. But this will take time. If British farmers and food producers can’t get the workers they need, we all risk higher food prices or more cheap imports produced to standards we wouldn’t tolerate here. This transition needs to be properly managed, with appropriate provisions made to prepare British businesses – many of whom have already had an extremely hard year. I urge Government to reflect on this and be ready to adapt their policy in response to the impact it has.”

WM comment

The enacting into law of the Immigration Act in November 2020 meant that a complete shake-up of the way businesses can recruit new staff from the EEA and Switzerland, and move existing staff between the UK and the EEA, was inevitable. Food and drink businesses in both the UK and EEA will now need to adjust rapidly to these changes if they are to remain compliant with their domestic immigration requirements, while meeting recruitment needs. For more detailed information on this topic from our Employment Team please read their article here.