A BREXIT adviser for the National Farmers Union has spoken of the issues discussed at a recent collaboration meeting within the food industry.

The NFU brought more than 70 representatives together in London in December to discuss the impacts of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a deal in place.

Tori Morgan, an NFU EU exit and international trade adviser, said themes around labour and trade importing and exporting were discussed.

“The NFU has been very clear that the UK leaving the EU without a deal would be catastrophic and is not an option for agriculture,” she said.

“However, it remains the default option and with this in mind we wanted to bring together trade organisations and businesses from across the agri-food sector to discuss what it would mean for the sector.

“The NFU was keen to ensure the whole supply chain was represented – from seed to shop shelf – hence we had organisations and businesses represented from pre- and post- farm gate.

“The event was also supported by Defra and officials there heard a strong message on the strength of feeling around some key no-deal issues.

“During the event attendees broke out into four workshops focusing on domestic markets, exports, physical inputs and wider operational concerns.

“Within these workshops participants identified risks and discussed potential mitigation strategies. As expected, across the workshops several key themes emerged.

“On labour, from staff on cutting lines in abattoirs, to dairy herdsmen, to seasonal fruit pickers, no part of the industry was content with provisions made to ensure the sector would have access to the permanent and seasonal workers it needs in the event of no-deal.

“With some non-UK workers going home for Christmas, several present were concerned staff may simply choose not to come back. Those seeking to recruit workers next year reported they were already facing issues with uncertainty over Brexit cited as a major concern.

“UK agriculture is a delicate balance of imports and exports. Many businesses present voiced concerns about the potential inability of the UK to export animals or animal-based products to the EU.

“On imports there was much discussion about key inputs for the sector, such as seed.”