A poultry magnate said Brexit is the biggest factor in the labour shortage his business is experiencing.
Ranjit Singh Boparan said the EU referendum vote “was always the biggest factor”, and that he highlighted this four years ago as well.
He told Sky News: “Brexit was a factor in people not wanting to come to work in this country anymore or were not even allowed to work in this country anymore.
“A lot of people have gone back to the countries they’ve come from and actually they don’t want to come back.”
Boparan called on the government to expand their definition of “skilled workers” and suggested his factory workers would not qualify for a “Skilled Workers visa”.
He said his workers deal with allergens, certain skills and technical things every day.
“They have to keep food safe to be delivered,” he said.
He added: “They are skilled workers and I think that’s the one thing the government really does need to look at.”
Ranjit Singh Bopran(2 Sisters food group) – Brexit is the biggest factor in the labor shortage… brexit meant people didn’t want to come to this country to work or weren’t even allowed to work in this country anymore… the govt needs to open the corridor for skilled workers.. pic.twitter.com/3voDRdzGL0— Haggis_UK ?? ?? (@Haggis_UK) July 26, 2021
His statements come after last week he warned labour shortages are pushing the meat industry to a “crisis point”, according to Metro.
Boparan said chicken and turkey supplies are “under threat”, and that he has 15 per cent shortages among his 16,000 staff members, meaning his company is “walking a tightrope every week at the moment”.
He told the newspaper: “Since May this year the operating environment has deteriorated so profoundly I can see no other outcome than major food shortages in the UK.”
Earlier this month, the British Meat Processors Association warned food supply chains are “right on the edge of failing”, and that even discounting the impact of the pandemic, skill shortages have led to vacancies of up to 15 per cent.
The BMPA said businesses are “increasingly concerned about the threat of empty supermarket shelves, just as peak summer demand hits” – but said industry representatives have still not obtained “definitive” guidance from the government.
Critical shortages of lorry drivers caused by Brexit and Covid travel rules are also contributing to the chaos.
‘Moment of reflection’
The government is trying to address the shortages of HGV drivers by relaxing rules around their driving hours and the tests required to become a lorry driver, but these proposals have sparked safety concerns.
Labour County Councillor Alexandra Bulat, who has campaigned heavily for EU citizens’ rights since Brexit, told The London Economic there are “good reasons” why driving hours limits existed in the first place.
She added: “Instead of pressuring drivers to drive in unsafe conditions, we should think about why these shortages exist.
“Many EU migrant drivers left the UK during the pandemic and the new immigration system will make it difficult to recruit migrant drivers who have been key to this part of the economy.”
In May this year, the hospitality sector admitted it was experiencing a recruitment crisis after many EU citizens left the UK.
“I think the pandemic made some people realise that the ‘low skilled migrants’ are, in fact, amongst the key workers keeping our society together,” Bulat told TLE.
She added: “I hope that this is a moment of reflection for all of us on our attitudes towards fellow residents in this country.”