It is a priority of this Government to enable an innovative, productive and competitive food supply chain, which invests in its people and skills. Defra is engaging actively with the Brexit Livestock Group, which was set up in early 2017 to provide a forum in which to discuss issues common to the livestock sector as a whole.
Defra understands the importance of labour in supporting a successful and effective meat processing sector, and is considering how best to support the needs of the sector both before and after the UK leaves the EU.
The UK Government has guaranteed that EU citizens resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be able to stay and we will take the necessary steps to protect their rights in a ‘no deal’ scenario. They will continue to be able to work, study, and access benefits and services in the UK on the same basis after we leave the EU as they do now.
Defra is working closely with other government departments, devolved administrations, partners, and businesses so that the food and farming industry is at the heart of EU exit preparations. We continue to work with industry partners to understand the challenges and opportunities in order to ensure a smooth transition.
Defra is also working to ensure that the meat processing sector has access to a sufficient number of veterinary surgeons, meat hygiene inspectors, slaughterers and livestock drivers.
In the first phase of the withdrawal agreement we secured agreement on the continued recognition of professional qualifications, including Vets, where recognition decisions were received or were ongoing, before the withdrawal date.
After we leave the EU, we must have an immigration system which works in the best interests of the UK – controlling immigration whilst continuing to ensure we have access to the labour we need.
Defra is working closely with the Home Office to ensure that there is a long term strategy for the food and farming workforce, including the meat processing sector, as part of the future immigration policy.
A White Paper on the future border and immigration system was published on 19 December 2018. This paper sets out the Government’s proposals for the UK’s future immigration system after our exit from the EU.
For the longer term, Defra is working with industry to raise awareness of the career opportunities within the agriculture and food industry to attract domestic workers, and is exploring the potential for innovation and automation in meeting future labour demands.