Agriculture: Labour Market

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 29th June 2020.

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Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Labour, Blaenau Gwent

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the combined effect of the UK leaving the EU and covid-19 travel restrictions on the agricultural labour market in 2020.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Free movement continues until the end of the Transition Period, which is the end of this year. In future, any EU citizen wishing to come to live and work in the UK will need to apply under the UK’s future immigration system. Agricultural businesses will continue to be able to rely on EU nationals living in the UK with settled or pre-settled status. We have guaranteed the rights of all EU citizens and their families already living in the UK. The EU Settlement Scheme, which opened in March 2019, has already received more than 3.5 million applications from EU citizens who are able to stay and work in the UK and there is still over a year until the application deadline of 30 June 2021

The Seasonal Workers Pilot is providing thousands of workers to farms across the UK this year. Travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have delayed the arrival of some Pilot workers. Defra and the Home Office are working closely with the operators of the Pilot to enable workers to reach the UK, including facilitating the re-opening of Visa Application Centres in Ukraine and Belarus on 1 June. This has allowed significant numbers of Pilot workers from those countries to obtain a visa and travel to the UK.

Defra has been working closely with the sector and other Government departments to closely monitor and respond to the agricultural labour market this year. Industry feedback indicates the demand for seasonal workers is currently being met, but we know this may change in the coming months and we are closely monitoring the situation.

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