Tory plans to end freedom of movement in March 2019 pose further challenge to Northern Ireland’s vital agri-food sector
Announcement only days after International Trade Secretary pushes post-Brexit US trade deal threatening local agri-food industry
July 28th: Unite Regional Officer with responsibility for Agri-food, Sean McKeever called on local political leaders to work together to secure guarantees for the industry to access EU workers post-Brexit.
“The Agri-Food sector in Northern Ireland is disproportionately exposed to the impacts of Brexit.
“In recent days concerns around its impact have been compounded by comments made by International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox which pose US-UK free trade agreement that would open the door to cut-cost chlorinated chicken and hormone treated beef from the US.
“Today the Tory party have indicated that freedom of movement between the EU and UK will end in March 2019.
“In some food processing plants here, migrant labour from the EU constitutes up to ninety percent of the workforce. Threats to end labour mobility into the UK would pose serious questions for local production.
“Local producers in Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector are already reporting significant labour shortages due to the falling value of sterling and fears over migration policy.
“Many of our members from EU countries who work here fear that they may not be able to leave the UK for any extended period to visit relatives without losing their residency rights here. Indeed sizeable numbers of Polish workers have already left and will not be returning which has resulted in significant gaps in the labour market in the sector.
“Agri-food plays a vital role, underpinning the rural economy and contributing very substantially to balanced regional development. Northern Ireland’s politicians must work together to guarantee that the sector can meet its labour shortfalls following Brexit”, Mr McKeever concluded.