The chief executive of Chapel Down, an official wine supplier to 10 Downing Street, has warned that Britons will “starve” if the door is closed to foreign fruit pickers after Brexit.
England’s biggest winemaker, based in Kent, relies on EU workers to pick grapes for its drinks, which also include beer, cider and gin.
In comments that are likely to cause embarrassment for Prime Minister Theresa May, Chapel Down chief executive Frazer Thompson told the Press Association: “The biggest potential impact (of Brexit) is on agricultural labour.
“Kent has had Eastern Europeans picking fruit in recent years, but we’ll all starve if the labour issue is not sorted after Brexit.”
Mr Thompson’s comments come as tonnes of fruit have been left to rot in farms across the country – including in Kent, Scotland and Herefordshire – because Brexit has made it harder to recruit European pickers.
According to the National Farmers’ Union, the horticulture industry had a 29% shortfall of seasonal workers in September.
Mrs May has continuously said she would like to see net migration fall to the “tens of thousands”, despite warnings over the economic cost.
The Chapel Down chief added: “We want a resolution to allow us to have freedom of movement for labour to pick the fruit, this is something that affects all fruit farmers across the south east of England.
“I’m hoping it will be sorted out and I hope they won’t close the doors, as if there’s no-one to pick the fruit, we’ll have to import everything.”
(Source: Swindon Advertiser)