The CLA has responded following Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom’s comments about employing farm workers from the EU and beyond following Brexit.
At a Conservative Party conference fringe event in Birmingham Mrs Leadsom is reported to have spoken about the “very good programme” of seasonal workers’ licences that was in place before the UK joined the EU and said it was “not beyond the wit of man to have such a thing in future".
CLA President Ross Murray said: “We highlighted immediately after the referendum result and in our CLA New Opportunities paper on the rural workforce that workers from the EU and beyond play a crucial role in the rural economy, not least in farming and the whole food chain. 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.
“We have been calling on Government to ensure that after Brexit there will still be a flexible, skilled and secure workforce so that farms and other rural businesses can plan for the future, invest in their businesses and secure or create jobs. We are asking ministers 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.”