Search

Immigration minister reassures farming employers over post-Brexit workforce

PUBLISHED: 14:19 03 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:15 03 January 2018

Seasonal workers cutting celery inside a rig for G's Group in the Fens. Picture: G's Group.

Seasonal workers cutting celery inside a rig for G's Group in the Fens. Picture: G's Group.

G's Group

Farming leaders in East Anglia have welcomed a Norfolk MP’s efforts to clarify the post-Brexit status of foreign workers who are vital to the region’s food industries.

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis.  Picture: James BassGreat Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis. Picture: James Bass

Immigration minister Brandon Lewis, who is also the MP for Great Yarmouth, wrote to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) to update its members on the rights of EU citizens in the UK following an agreement made at the European Council in December.

“We have taken a big step forward,” says the letter. “EU citizens living lawfully here before the UK’s exit from the EU will be able to stay. The deal will respect the rights that individuals are exercising and the benefits they currently have. This will help EU citizens and organisations alike plan for the future.”

Mr Lewis outlines “three simple messages” for farming employers to share with their staff:

• You will be able to stay if you are in the UK when the UK leaves the EU;

Robert Sheasby, NFU East AngliaRobert Sheasby, NFU East Anglia

• Close family members will be able to join you;

• It will be “easy and inexpensive” to apply for settled status, and a streamlined process will open during the second half of 2018.

The letter adds: “The agreement will not only enable families who have built their lives together in the EU and UK to stay together; it also gives certainty about healthcare, pensions and other benefits.”

The NFU says continued access to non-UK workers will be critical after Brexit – particularly in horticultural and poultry businesses whose seasonal labour demands rely heavily on labour from outside the UK.

Beverly Dixon, G's Group HR DirectorBeverly Dixon, G's Group HR Director

NFU East Anglia’s regional director Robert Sheasby said: “Access to a competent and reliable workforce is vital for our food production, especially in a time of record low levels of UK unemployment. EU nationals form a crucially important part of this workforce on farming businesses across our region. They are widely employed throughout the supply chain as well.

“Securing the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK is therefore critical, whatever the outcome of a final (Brexit) deal, so we welcome this clarification.

“We will continue to work with the Home Office to ensure our members are kept up to date and to make sure EU nationals working in food and farming are aware of what they need to do to secure these rights.”

EMPLOYER’S VIEW

While welcoming more certainty for its permanent workers, a major East Anglian grower said more needs to be done to safeguard its seasonal workforce after Brexit.

The G’s Group, based at Barway near Ely in Cambridgeshire, employs 2,500 seasonal workers at the peak of the season, mostly from Romania and Bulgaria, to gather and process the firm’s vast crop of salad and vegetables including lettuces and celery.

Group HR director Beverly Dixon said: “We are pleased that the conclusion of the first phase of negotiations has brought some certainty for our permanent EU national colleagues.

“We recognise and greatly value the important contribution that these highly-skilled, well-trained individuals make to our business and to productivity across the UK agricultural sector as a whole. Despite this, the problem of seasonal harvest workers in UK agriculture remains and is not dependent on the outcome of external negotiations; we very much hope that we will see some progress on this issue in the coming months.”

Search hundreds of local jobs at Jobs24

Management Jobs

Show Job Lists

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Insight

Dan Evans, a partner at Cozens-Hardy solicitors, considers whether Overage is a sensible option or an unnecessary complication.

At this time of year, many of us throw caution to the wind so we can ensure our loved ones have a good time over Christmas.

Women in Business

cover

Enjoy the
Women in Business
digital edition

Read

Business East

cover

Enjoy the
Business East
digital edition

Read

The Best Employers

cover

Enjoy the
Best Employers
digital edition

Read

Celebrating Success

cover

Enjoy the
Celebrating Success
digital edition

Read

B2B Exhibition

cover

Enjoy the
B2B Exhibition
digital edition

Read

Green 100

cover

Enjoy the Green 100
digital edition

Read

Meet the Team

Mark Shields

Business Editor

|

Chris Hill

Agricultural and Farming Editor

|

Business Most Read

Awards

Norfolk Future 50 EDP Business Awards Green 100