Andrea Leadsom reassures farmers over access to EU immigrants after Brexit

Posted On: 
4th January 2017

UK farmers will still be able to bring in EU nationals to carry out seasonal agricultural work after Brexit, the Environment Secretary has indicated. 

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom delivering her speech to the 2016 Conservative party conference
Credit: 
Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Britain’s agricultural sector is heavily dependent on tens of thousands of immigrants coming from the EU to work as fruit-pickers and in other labour capacities.

The Government has pledged to introduce a tougher immigration system as it leaves the European Union, with the target of cutting net migration to less than 100,000 still in place.

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But Andrea Leadsom, who was a leading advocate of Brexit during the referendum, sought to reassure farmers that they would still be able to access “people with the right skills”.

“I know how important seasonal labour from the EU is, to the everyday running of your businesses,” the minister said in a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference.

“I’ve heard this loud and clear around the country, whether in Herefordshire, Sussex, or Northamptonshire, and I want to pay tribute to the many workers from Europe who contribute so much to our farming industry and rural communities.

“Access to labour is very much an important part of our current discussions – and we’re committed to working with you to make sure you have the right people with the right skills.”

'HEDGE MEANS HEDGE'

Elsewhere in her speech, Ms Leadsom promised a bonfire of regulations after Brexit takes place.

She said the Government wanted to scrap the requirement for farmers to put up billboards to draw attention to the European Union’s funding for their farms, ditch the “ridiculous, bureaucratic three-crop rule” that forces larger farms to grow a variety of crops, and simplify definitions to end “existential debates to determine what counts as a bush, a hedge, or a tree”.

“By cutting the red tape that comes out of Brussels, we will free our farmers to grow more, sell more and export more great British food – whilst upholding our high standards for plant and animal health and welfare,” she said.

“My priority will be common sense rules that work for you.”