Farmers urge Home Secretary to commit to EU workers post-Brexit

Farmers are keen to see Home Secretary Amber Rudd acknowledge the need for post-Brexit labour on farms
Farmers are keen to see Home Secretary Amber Rudd acknowledge the need for post-Brexit labour on farms

Farmers are seeking an early commitment from the Home Secretary in enabling rural businesses to keep employing workers from the EU and beyond after Brexit.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said uncertainty surrounding changes to employment rights for migrant workers from the EU may affect investment and job creation.

The organisation is calling for the Government to allay concerns by confirming the status of EU migrants already resident in the UK and committing to establishing sector specific schemes for seasonal and skilled workers.

CLA President Ross Murray said workers from the EU and beyond play a "crucial role" in the rural economy.

"In agriculture alone more than 30,000 permanent workers and an estimated 67,000 seasonal workers overseas help keep our shops and market stalls stocked with UK produce," Mr Murray said.

"Farms and other rural businesses need to know that after Brexit there will still be a flexible, skilled and secure workforce so they can plan for the future, invest in their businesses and secure or create jobs.

"We are asking the Home Secretary to commit to establishing sector based schemes that will ensure opportunities for seasonal and skilled workers from both the UK and overseas if free movement of labour is removed.

"This includes the introduction of a seasonal agricultural workers scheme post-Brexit enabling people to enter the UK for a specific job, for a set period of time without the right to remain afterwards.

"Similar schemes have worked well in the past in agriculture and will help farmers to keep producing the food we eat, to run viable businesses, and to continue creating job opportunities year in and year out.

"Similar schemes will be needed in other rural sectors such as tourism," Mr Murray concluded.

'Invest and grow'

The UK’s previous seasonal agricultural workers scheme (SAWS) began in 1945 and evolved until it was closed in 2013, following the removal of restrictions on freedom of movement on workers from Romania and Bulgaria.

Ross Murray added: "There are also many important and skilled permanent overseas workers across the rural economy who should be able to remain employed in the UK.

"Government policy should ensure the UK continues to attract skilled and experienced people from across the world to farming and to the research and development sector, and encourages the brightest minds to come and learn at our world-class rural colleges and universities."

The CLA, along with Scottish Land & Estates, has published a new briefing paper asking the government to make the following early commitments on labour arrangements:

• Confirm the status of EU migrant workers already resident in the UK

• Establish appropriate sector specific schemes that ensure availability of seasonal and skilled labour

• Ensure the UK’s position as a destination for the best to participate in research and development is maintained

• Develop an immigration policy that ensures that the supply of workers across the rural economy is sufficient to ensure businesses can invest and grow.