The NPA has expressed concern following the publication of a leaked document giving an insight into the Government’s current thinking on its post-Brexit immigration policy.
The document, leaked to the Guardian, shows the Government intends to be tough on immigration, ending the free movement of labour as soon as we leave the EU to give the UK more control over who comes into the country
Of particular concern for the pig sector are plans to curb so-called ‘unskilled’ workers from the EU by, for example, introducing a cap on numbers and a salary and skills threshold. While the document, which has not been signed off by Ministers, stresses the Government’s desire to keep the UK’s doors open to skilled labour from the EU, other policy ideas include ending the right to settle in Britain for most European migrants and new restrictions on their rights to bring in family members.
NPA senior policy advisor Ed Barker said: “The NPA is alarmed by the Home Office’s suggestion that migrant labour from the EU should be severely restricted, particularly those who fall under the ‘unskilled’ (not educated to degree level) definition. Many workers in the pig sector fall into this category but are in fact highly skilled and make a significant contribution to the economy.
“We have made our position clear that migrant labour is integral to the businesses of NPA members; 58% of members indicated to the NPA’s migrant labour survey that they employed at least one migrant labourer, with 20% indicating they would struggle to survive without it.
“Whilst the paper refers to the ongoing work of the Migratory Advisory Committee, it is vital that the Committee is able to report its findings quickly, so that it can adequately shape Government policy. We note that the paper recognises the need for a sector by sector approach to business needs on migrant labour, and the NPA would urge that the pig sector should be able to state its unique case for continued access to migrant labour for permanent, ‘unskilled’ roles.”
The paper has been criticised by other organisations representing UK businesses.
The NFU claimed the “entire food supply chain” could be threatened. NFU deputy president Minette Batters said: “We are calling for an urgent and clear commitment from government to ensure that farmers and growers have access to sufficient numbers of permanent and seasonal workers post-Brexit.
“And we need clarity on the new rules for EU nationals living and working in the UK well before free movement ends in March 2019.”
Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation, said: “If this does represent the government’s thinking it shows a deep lack of understanding of the vital contribution that EU migrant workers make – at all skill levels – across the food chain.”