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Farmers could be forced to pay for EU employee work permits in no-deal Brexit

If the UK and EU do not reach a Brexit deal, freedom of movement will automatically come to an end on March 29 this year.

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Farmers could be forced to pay for EU employee work permits in no-deal Brexit

Concerns are growing that farmers and growers could end up paying for work permits for their EU employees in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

 

NFU horticulture and potatoes board chairman Ali Capper spoke of her dismay at the news, which she said was ‘slipped out in a press release’.


If the UK and EU do not reach a Brexit deal, freedom of movement will automatically come to an end on March 29 this year.


Speaking at NFU Council this week, Ms Capper warned the union had been forced to ask for 10,000 people to be included in the seasonal agricultural workers’ pilot for 2019, instead of 2,500.


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Ms Capper said: “In a no-deal scenario, EU nationals will be allowed to enter for a period of three months, after which they will have to pay to apply for a European temporary leave-to-remain permit.


“That will be valid for three years if they succeed, and there will be a fee which is yet to be confirmed. The leave-to-remain will be subject to identity, criminality and security checks.


“What is the cost and who is going to bear it?”


In a key set of votes in Parliament on Tuesday (January 29), MPs turned down the opportunity to put any legal barriers in the way of a no-deal Brexit, leaving the threat of an unmanaged departure on the table.

 

Impact

The sector is as it stands recruiting mostly from Romania and Bulgaria, with 70,000-80,000 seasonal workers expected to arrive in April.


But British farmers and growers remain in competition with Germany, France, Italy and other parts of Eastern Europe for the workers.

“Right now I believe this announcement is going to significantly impact our ability to recruit these workers and look like a competitive and interesting place to come and work,” Ms Capper said.

 

“We are clearly going to have to put in a new ask on the seasonal agricultural workers pilot because if I was an EU worker looking at the UK right now I would probably be choosing a different EU country to go and work in.”


British Summer Fruits chairman Nick Marston agreed the statement had undermined previous Government assurances that similar worker arrangements would be in place in the event of a no-deal Brexit.


He said he was working closely with the NFU to question the Government on what the leave-to-remain mechanism would look like, as well as its costs.


NFU Scotland horticulture committee chairman James Porter added: “Three months is not long enough and I have a very real concern that a no-deal will inevitably lead to a big drop in the pound.

 

“Yes, we might open the door to EU workers, but they might not want to come.”

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