Key role for Martyn as Brexit fears underlined

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 24 Jul 2017

CALLS for swift decisions on the future of migrant workers post-Brexit have been made, following a report highlighting how the issue could damage the region’s food sector.

As reported last week, a report commissioned by The Food and Drink Federation identified a number of key obstacles that the industry faces – and immigration was one, with a fear that exiting the EU may threaten the future should the sector not receive Government support to help manage any transition.

The study went on to call for the sector to be prioritised as the UK’s largest manufacturing industry in relation to any new immigration policy. 

Martyn Boyers, chief executive of Grimsby Fish Market operator Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises Ltd, is also chair of the British Ports Association’s Fishing Ports Group, a working body involved with Defra on shaping Brexit policy. He is also part of a group appointed by the minister to consider a 2040 Strategic Framework and vision for seafood.

Mr Boyers has met with the newly developed ‘Department for Exit’, as it shapes Government policy in preparation for leaving the EU, and its alternative to the Common Fisheries Policy. In doing so, he has emphasised that the £200 million of fish that is handled through UK ports, the landing of fish from vessels, and the jobs it generates in processing are essential for communities and vital for the national economy.

Following the latest round of talks, he said: “The employment of foreign labour is something that we are very mindful of.

When it comes to the recruitment of staff, this is always going to be a potential issue and we need to do everything possible to ensure people are available. It is also essential that we see basic skills improved and increased training.”

Research from industry suggests more than 30 per cent of workers in the region’s seafood sector are of Eastern

European origin. Meanwhile in the UK agricultural sector, 85,000 seasonal workers are employed for the annual harvest. Many are European and arrive on work permits in Lincolnshire.

Tom Martin, a trainee solicitor working in the employment team at leading regional law firm, Wilkin Chapman, said there was an emerging picture of companies already seeing a downturn in workforce, due to fears over what Brexit may bring.

“Amid much speculation as to how freedom of movement may be affected, it would appear that companies are already seeing a shortage of EU workers, who are put off coming to the UK,” he said. “There is clearly confusion and uncertainty, well before any deal has been proposed or finalised, leading to a change in behaviour by current and potential employees.

“Once the Brexit deal is agreed, businesses will likely have further reduced access to EU workers with potentially tighter immigration controls or even bans on recruitment from EU sources. Exemptions are being discussed for certain key sectors, as it is feared that hospitality and agriculture businesses will struggle without EU migrants. A period of transition is likely and EU citizens already here are being offered some guarantees about their right to stay, but the outlook remains uncertain.

“It is likely that migrant workers will start looking elsewhere following Brexit. Companies may have to look to UK nationals to fill this void, despite difficulty in attracting local employees to do work traditionally done by migrant labour. What is certain is that decision makers on the Brexit deal need to address this issue quickly and provide some level of clarity so businesses can plan for the future.”

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