Turkey farmer Paul Kelly is planning to move part of his renowned £15.3 million business from the UK to Germany and Holland because of Brexit.

“It all depends on what happens in March 2019 – the date the UK is due to leave the European Union,” said Mr Kelly, managing director of KellyBronze turkeys at Springate Farm in Danbury, Essex. “We are looking at new locations in Holland and Germany so that we do not have to contend with customs and tariff barriers once Brexit is complete.”

If customs controls are introduced, 15% of the business worth about £1 million and currently exporting 500,000 eggs and day old chicks – or poults – would be moved into Germany and Holland, both of which are EU member states. There, the customs union would avoid any trade barriers and exports to countries such as France, Austria, Italy and Denmark could continue unhindered.

“I am a remainer,”said Mr Kelly, whose slow growing, hand plucked and free range birds have been called the best by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. “To me, being in the EU is an absolute no brainer. On balance, the advanatges far outweigh the problems. There may be things wrong with the EU but oh my God, there are plenty of things which are right!”

One of these is the single European market, which has made it easy for Mr Kelly to recruit Polish workers. He did not use the old seasonal agricultural workers scheme to recruit workers, because it mainly covered the harvest period in fruit and vegetable growing whereas Mr Kelly needs workers to pluck turkeys for the UK Christmas trade. He currently has 95: nearly all of these have been coming to the farm for years, and on average, only five to 10 have to be re trained each year or are lost through natural wastage.

But this year, for the first time two of his workers have opted not to go to KellyBronze and have found full time work in Germany instead. “They do not see a future for them in the UK,” said Mr Kelly. “That is because even though our government has safeguarded the jobs of EU nationals, the news they see in Poland says that noone wants them in the UK.”

Although Mr Kelly has enough workers for this Christmas, he is uncertain about the future when it is likely there will be a visa scheme for workers, whether or not they are from the EU. “My worry is that in a couple of years time, the two or three who decide there is no future for them here will turn into 30 or 40. If I cannot find the workers, 70% of the business would have to go because I cannot supply the UK market. It is the same predicament for every turkey factory in the UK.”

Mr Kelly has a core staff of 30, and in a “doomsday scenario” estimates he could find 50 people instead of the 150 he would need. “In those circumstances, we could do about 30% of the business.”