Temporary visas for agricultural workers unlikely to plug Brexit gap
The impact of Brexit remains a primary concern for many Immigration solicitors in London, not just for the impact it is likely to have on individuals, but for many UK industries that rely on EU citizens to plug gaps in the UK labour market. The UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Environment Secretary Michael Gove have recently announced a pilot scheme to issue temporary visas to 2,500 agricultural workers during the Brexit transition period. While Immigration lawyers welcome the news, they share the concern with many in the UK agricultural industry that this will be nowhere near enough to plug the Brexit gap.
Temporary visa introduced
Against the backdrop of what many perceive to be an imminent crisis in the UK agricultural industry as a direct result of Brexit, the UK Government has announced a pilot scheme for temporary agricultural workers. It is not yet clear which route the new temporary visas will be available under. There is some speculation amongst top UK Immigration solicitors that the currently suspended Tier 3 will be engaged. More details will no doubt become clear, but for now, we know that the scheme will allow fruit and vegetable farmers in the UK to employ agricultural workers from outside the EU on a seasonal basis for up to 6 months. The scheme will run from Spring 2019 until December 2020 when the Brexit transition period ends.
UK reliant on EU agricultural workers
It’s long been known that agricultural workers are in short supply in the UK. Since the Second World War, the local workforce has been supplemented by overseas labour. In recent years, some 27,000 EU workers have been permanently employed in the UK agricultural industry, with numbers swelling to nearly 100,000 with seasonal workers. The Seasonal Agricultural Workers visa scheme introduced after World War II was discontinued in 2013, the result of a decision by the UK Government that there were enough EU workers in the UK able to fill the gaps.
The Brexit referendum in 2016 has now put the future of the UK agricultural industry at risk – while EU citizens living in the UK will be able to apply for settled status for a limited period of time, there are no clear plans for the future – in particular to cover the need for seasonal workers to help at critical periods such as harvest. The outcome of the Brexit vote has also made UK less attractive to seasonal workers.
While the announcement that the UK agricultural industry will be able to benefit from up to 2,500 seasonal workers from outside the EU has been welcomed as a step in the right direction, many fear that it will be a drop in the ocean to what is required.
Top Immigration law firm OTS Solicitors are available to advise on any aspect of Immigration law. If you are an employer in any industry concerned about the impact of Brexit on your staffing levels, or an individual concerned about your status in the UK during the Brexit transition period or once the UK has left the EU, please do call us in confidence on 0203 959 9123 to find out how we can help.