The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has told the NFU it ‘cannot have everything it wants’ on access to labour.
The union’s president Minette Batters revealed the Home Secretary’s bullish stance at a London Brexit conference jointly hosted by the NFU and a range of other European farming groups last week (October 25).
Ms Batters criticised the Government’s intention to limit access to the UK for so-called ‘low-skilled’ workers, describing the language as ‘ghastly’.
The position has been informed by a Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report which said there should be no sector-specific migration route for low-skilled workers – a definition which covers agricultural employment and jobs in other areas of the food chain such as abattoirs.
Ms Batters said: “It is basically saying to the people of this country, if you are thick, if you are low-skilled, you are not going to get a job, and to anybody out there, we do not want people who are thick or low-skilled.
“It is torrid for people here and it is torrid for people abroad.
“I said to Sajid Javid at [Conservative Party] conference, ‘I wish you would drop this awful language of low-skilled and high-skilled’, to which he thumped his finger into my chest and said ‘well you cannot have everything you want’.”
Mr Javid, who has famously spoken of how his Pakistani bus driver father arrived in Britain with ‘a £5 note in his pocket’, would have been unable to move to the UK under the MAC proposals.
“You feel like saying, ‘Saj, what is your background?’” Ms Batters said.
“We should not be so discriminatory. We have predominantly foreign-owned processors and 95 per cent of meat Official Veterinarians are European.
“We have got the lowest levels of unemployment since 1975 at 4 per cent, so even if you wanted to, you have not got the workers in the UK.
“European citizens have added a lot to our workforce and I hope they can continue to do so.”