Non-EU migrant farm workers will be able to work on UK farms for six months in a new pilot scheme the government has announced.
UK fruit and vegetable growers will be able to recruit non-EU migrants between spring 2019 and December 2020 in order to help tackle labour shortages during peak production periods.
As many as 2,500 workers a year will be given visas that will last for six months.The scheme, which would run during a transition period after the UK leaves the EU, was announced in a joint statement by the Home Office and Defra. The government said that the pilot scheme would be closely monitored and could stop if there was evidence workers were not returning to their home countries after the six month period.
Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “We have listened to the powerful arguments from farmers about the need for seasonal labour to keep the horticulture industry productive and profitable. From lettuce in East Anglia to strawberries in Scotland, we want to make sure that farmers can continue to grow, sell and export more great British food.
“This two year pilot will ease the workforce pressures faced by farmers during busy times of the year. We will review the pilot’s results as we look at how best to support the longer-term needs of industry outside the EU.”
Home secretary Sajid Javid, added : “This pilot will ensure farmers have access to the seasonal labour they need to remain productive and profitable during busy times of the year. I am committed to having an immigration system that reduces migration to sustainable levels, supports all industry and ensures we welcome those who benefit Britain.”