British farmers want access to cheap EU labour

Lettuce farmer Nick Otterwell poses for a portrait on a farm in Kent, Britain, 08 December 2017. The end of march 2018 marks a year until Britain formally leaves the European Union, at 11pm on Friday 29 March 2019. Nick Otterwell is farming director for lettuce grower LJ Betts Ltd: "Most of our workers are seasonal workers from Bulgaria and Romania. When Brexit happened it affected the moral of the workers. Why do British people not want us to work here now? What happens in 2019, will I be allowed to go to the UK and work as a seasonal worker? Because it's a political hot potato and how slowly governments work, it is a question we can't answer and we are only a year away from that now. In 2018 we will muddle through but business will have to work harder to attract staff. Business that don?t work hard enough will get affected, there will be crops that don?t get picked." EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL ATTENTION: For the full PHOTO ESSAY text please see Advisory Notice epa06613774

British farmers want access to cheap EU labour


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The British food and farming sector is only the latest industry calling for clarification over freedom of movement and market access during the post-Brexit transition period after the British National Farming Union and 100 organisations across the UK published on May 28 a “Food Supply Manifesto” that called on Prime Minister Theresa May to ensure continued access to the EU’s labour market until at least December 2020.

The sector also wants what it calls “frictionless” trade with the EU, employing a term that is used by Conservative Leave campaigners to refer to a technology-intensive resolution of problems arising from border controls. The issue is especially pressing in Northern Ireland, where a big part of the economy focuses on farming and value chains integrated with the Republic.

The manifesto also raises concerns for the maintenance of high environmental standards that the industry depends on a cheap seasonal labour supply which the Minister for the Environment and leading Leave campaigner, Michael Gove, is willing to guarantee. His will has not, however, translated into the publication of a policy roadmap.

Gove has clarified that the UK’s farming and environmental standards will rise rather than race to the bottom after the country leaves the EU. However, concerns are raised as a trade deal with the US may come at the expense of deregulating market-access.

British farming associations are now asking for a white paper clarifying the intentions of the government after the end of the promised transition period.

“We are determined to get the best deal for the UK in our EU negotiations, not least for our world-leading food and farming industry which is a key part of our economic success,” a government spokesman told the BBC.

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