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UK farm deals with post-Brexit challenges by moving to Europe

G’s Fresh of Ely, a farming business that delivers a billion lettuces to British supermarkets each year, is fighting the challenges posed post-Brexit by moving part of its operations to Europe.

Appearing on the BBC’s Inside Out East, John Shropshire and his son, Henry, discussed the impact Brexit is having on farming and why they’re “taking the work to the people” in Poland and Spain.

When asked about migrant labour, John Shropshire said: “If we can’t bring the people to the work, we’ll have to take the work to the people.

“We load the lettuces onto a lorry and take it to Poland and produce there for the UK market.

“I think, fundamentally, losing the single market is the biggest risk from Brexit.

“It’s a highly competitive market, so we’ve got a lot of competition, driving prices down.

“But also, it’s freed up the process. We’ve actually got rid of the customs, loads of paperwork, huge amounts of bureaucracy, sacks of people in offices and government officials inspecting every load.

“The list goes on and on as to what it’s saved.”

Coming from a generation of farmers, Henry Shropshire, who runs the Polish farm, told Inside Out that he started on his post-Brexit plan right after the referendum.

“For the UK consumers, when it comes down to it, it’s all about price.

“At this point we will never be able to deliver the price that they expect for UK-grown produce onto the shelves in supermarkets. It’s impossible; because post-Brexit there’s question marks over the free movement of people, and that in itself is a deal-breaker.

“If we cannot get the people to come and harvest, that’s it - it’s over.

“That’s why we’ll be coming here. We’ll be able to move the land to the people, move the management and machines here, and start supplying into the UK and giving what the UK consumer wants – and that’s a cheap, fresh, good quality product; which is what we’ll be able to deliver from Poland.”

Investing for “the future,” he added: “We’re pushing our UK marketing team to start introducing Polish product as another opportunity.

“Some would say the land’s actually more fertile in this region of Poland; the weather’s better, we have the water and we just have to move the machinery.

“And we have the people, which we may not have in the UK in two or three years time. Who knows?”

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