CLA: farms and rural businesses need certainty from Home Secretary on post-Brexit schemes for overseas workers

An early commitment is needed from the Home Secretary to establish post-Brexit sector schemes that will enable farms and other rural businesses to keep employing workers from the EU and beyond as well as UK workers, says the CLA.

The organisation (which represents 32,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses in England and Wales) says that the rural economy will be particularly affected by changes to policies on employing migrant workers from the EU and that uncertainty may affect investments and job creation in the rural sector. It 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.

“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.”

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 adds: “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 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

The CLA is running the CLA New Opportunities campaign to ensure that farming, the rural economy and the environment are treated as priorities by Government as the UK prepares for Brexit.

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