The draft government report detailing how EU migrants may only be allowed to work in the UK for two years before being sent home under Brexit plans to curb migration has led to further anxiety within industry sectors.
It says businesses would have to recruit locally or prove an “economic need” to employ people from the EU.
Industry leaders and union officials say Britain’s fresh produce supply chain and the labour workforce is facing crisis and are calling the government to clarify new rules for European workers much before the UK leaves the Union in March 2019.
Britain’s soft fruit industry could be plunged into chaos as fruit pickers from the EU have been working seasonally on UK farms for decades, while British people have historically been reluctant to carry out this kind of work.
Following the paper which was leaked to The Guardian, British Summer Fruits chairman Laurence Olins – who has been lobbying government for quite some time, pushing the need for EU migrants to prop up agricultural and horticultural workforces in the UK – has spoken out.
He says, according to the document, there is little detail on plans for seasonal migrants who are vital to the British horticulture industry.
“The leaked government document on EU immigration fails to mention enough about the impact Brexit will have on seasonal labour,” he says.
“The report discusses implementing measures to drive down the number of low-skilled migrants from Europe but it does not reference a seasonal work permit scheme for seasonal labour.
“We have already highlighted how extreme it would get without a work permit scheme and a recent poll also revealed even leave voters understand the need for this kind of system.”
Olins, like so many others, is pushing the government to recognise the urgency of getting a system in place.
“We must have a solution to this issue by the end of the year, to allow us to recruit seasonal workers for the next season.
“We have provided DEFRA and the Home Office with all the facts they require clearly showing the numbers of workers needed, where they are coming from and how UK citizens and mechanisation are not the solutions.
“We have no further data to provide. Now it is the turn of Government to give us the solution.”