More than a quarter of Brits want to see fewer immigrant workers picking fruit and vegetables in the UK, according to research cited in a new Confederation of British Industry (CBI) report.
The CBI published its blueprint for a different post-Brexit approach to immigration last week, ahead of the Government’s long-awaited Immigration Bill.
Its policy suggestions were based on extensive consultation with businesses through roundtables and surveys of industry leaders, including those in the agricultural and horticultural sectors.
The paper suggested much of the political debate around immigration had been ‘oversimplified’.
It said: “Rather than supporting highly-skilled immigration and opposing everything else, the British public has much more nuanced views.
“British Future and HOPE Not Hate’s ‘National Conversation’ on immigration has shown public support for higher levels of immigration to fill jobs which are not highly-skilled.
“While a significant minority (44 per cent) wanted to see low-skilled immigration reduced, only one-in-four (26 per cent) wanted to see fewer seasonal workers on farms, in factories and hotels.”
As a result of its consultations with industry, the CBI has called for businesses to continue to be able to hire vets, food packers and butchers from abroad.
It also added its weight to the campaign for a new Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Scheme open to workers from outside the EU, pointing out labour shortages on farm would affect the UK’s supply of food and shrink the rural economy.
“As free movement comes to end, any new system will need to support trade and ensure that companies can continue to meet their needs for people and skills,” the report said.
“For businesses to harness the opportunities on offer in a new Global Britain, they require easier access to international workers from around the world, from Austria to Argentina to Australia.”