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Brexit Could Spell Disaster for the UK's Produce Industry

Restrictions on foreign workers could be damning for British agriculture

Asparagus Farming In Devon Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Brexit has done a number on the UK’s restaurant and food industries and now, some are warning that Britain’s exit from the European Union could ultimately lead to the collapse of the country’s produce industry.

According to the Guardian, approximately “90 percent of British fruit, vegetables and salads are picked, graded and packed by 60,000 to 70,000 workers from overseas, mostly from eastern Europe.” Though the details surrounding foreign workers already in the country remain murky, some say that post-Brexit, EU citizens will lose their automatic right to work in the UK.

If those 60,000 to 70,000 workers leave the UK, who will pick the fruit? Probably not Brits. John Shropshire, chairman of one of the UK’s biggest producers of vegetables, told the Guardian, “No British person wants a seasonal job working in the fields. They want permanent jobs or jobs that are not quite as taxing physically.”

In that case, fruit and vegetable production may need to be moved to a different country entirely, meaning the UK’s own produce industry would collapse. Some of the country’s biggest fruit and vegetable producers are now urging the government to set up a new permit program that would allow workers to come in seasonally.

Similar concerns about foreign workers have been expressed in regards to restaurants and bars in the UK, which are largely dependent on immigrant labor.

The National Farmers’ Union has previously warned that, unless an agreement on seasonal labor is reached, Brexit could be the beginning of the end for traditional British treats like strawberries and cream.

Brexit Could Herald End to British Fruit and Veg Sales, Producers Warn [Guardian]

What Will Brexit Mean for Food in the UK? [E]

All Brexit Coverage [E]

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