Restricting access to migrant workers once the UK leaves the EU would negatively impact the profitability, efficiency and viability of more than half of rural businesses, according a new survey by the CLA.
The CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, said Brexit had already caused problems for rural employers, with 44% of CLA members surveyed saying they had experienced a reduction in the availability of migrant labour over the past year.
Almost 90% of respondents tried to recruit locally but the majority found it difficult to fill positions with British workers.
One in ten CLA members employ migrant workers in managerial positions, with almost a quarter of respondents saying they worked in skilled roles, such as training horses or operating complex machinery. The survey revealed that although overseas labour peaks during harvest months, workers are employed all year round within rural businesses.
The findings are likely to be a hot topic of discussion as the CLA hosts a range of events at the Royal Norfolk Show this week as nearly half of the responses received from the survey were from members based in the eastern region.
CLA East Regional Director Ben Underwood said:
“We know that many of our members are heavily reliant on migrant workers and our survey shows they are a vital labour force for many rural businesses.
“The Government must provide certainty that after Brexit there will still be a flexible, skilled and secure workforce in order for rural businesses to plan for the future. To support the already acute shortage of labour a new seasonal agricultural workers scheme must be introduced immediately, not after the UK has left the EU, and the Government must also confirm the status of EU migrant workers in sectors such as food processing, horticulture and tourism already resident in the UK.”