The crucial post-Brexit issues of access to labour and trade were debated in Parliament on 13th March. Tabled by Ian Paisley MP, the debate highlighted the massive contribution that the British poultry meat industry makes to feeding the nation.
Commenting on the debate, BPC Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths, said: “We are delighted that poultry meat is being recognised as an essential sector in British food production, and that how to back British poultry farmers is being debated at the highest levels. For the poultry meat sector, Brexit means a strong ‘British’ brand with standards and values that are reflected in the best deal possible on access to labour and on trade. Put bluntly, without these two elements safeguarded, the British poultry meat sector will not exist to feed the nation and British food security will be compromised.”
Along with Jim Shannon MP, Ian Paisley praised the industry for growing nearly 1 billion birds every year, and its £4.6 billion gross value added contribution to the UK economy, and he said in the debate: “If I were to say it is an important industry, I would be a master of understatement.”
George Eustice MP responded warmly on behalf of Defra, and congratulated British poultry meat producers on being part of a “dynamic and valuable sector”. He talked about the Government’s commitment to future trading partners, and encouraging more young people into the sector, as part of the overall UK Food and Farming Policy. He also talked about the importance of enabling people from other countries to work in the UK, but as part of a controlled immigration policy.
As part of the wider debate on the effect on British poultry meat producers of leaving the EU, the BPC is proposing the following solutions to the challenges:
- Reinstatement of Tier 3 immigration status (or similar) as part of a simplified working-visa system that brings long-term migrant labour into specific jobs: 60% of our 37,700 direct employees are non-UK workers, and the British poultry meat sector will need to fill around 6,000 roles every year
- A UK Food & Farming Policy with support for promotion of UK food and farming at school level, and a greater focus on apprenticeships that will encourage UK labour into the sector
- A UK Food & Farming Policy that puts British food at the centre of public food procurement
- Common regulatory equivalence of outcomes that facilitates trade with EU countries and minimises the cost of trade, including the import of feed: 75% of our imports and exports are with EU member states, worth approximately £2 billion annually
- Dedicated Government support in opening third-country markets to trade, supported by a strong ‘British’ food brand
- Government support for British Food & Farming through focusing available support on infrastructure and regeneration of rural areas
- A UK Food & Farming Policy that backs UK food security and increases self-sufficiency: poultry meat is the only sector that could scale-up quickly to meet food security demands
Richard Griffiths concluded: “The BPC and its members are absolutely committed to working with Government to find a solution to labour and trade issues, and striving for the best possible deal on leaving the EU. We are an important part of British food production and we will continue to be so.”
Notes to editors
The transcript of the Adjournment Debate can be found at: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-03-13/debates/1703144000002/LeavingTheEUPoultryProducers
A summary of the economic contribution of the British poultry meat sector can be found at: https://britishpoultry.org.uk/economic-contrib…ltry-sector-2015/