Brexit: UK extends easing for foreign agricultural seasonal workers

30,000 visas of up to six months will be available with an extension up to 40,000 if necessary.

The UK government on Friday announced the extension until the end of 2024 of the existing easing to allow the use of seasonal foreign agricultural workers, but demanded a plan from the sector to break its dependence on this workforce. . Less than a year after the entry into force of Brexit, the UK had already had to relax its migration policy in September due to supply issues, granting 10,500 three-month visas to workers in sectors such as road transport or poultry farms.

According to the extension announced on Friday, which concerns seasonal workers in the market gardening and horticulture sectors, 30,000 visas of up to six months will be available with an extension up to 40,000 if necessary, according to a statement from the British government. .

The number of visas will decrease from 2023, « and the sector will have to improve wages and working conditions », underlines the press release, in line with the shift towards a post-Brexit economy based on high wages and high skills promised by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Professionals not convinced

« We have had a seasonal worker scheme for agriculture since World War II and long before we joined the EU, » Environment Minister George Eustice said in a statement. « We recognize that agriculture has unique and seasonal labor needs at harvest time and we have listened to our globally leading fresh produce industry to understand their needs, » said he added.

Not enough in the eyes of the Scottish agricultural union official Scott Walker, who on Twitter deemed « devastating » for local market gardening the drop in the number of visas announced after 2023. Also faced with a lack of manpower, the medico-social – caregivers, employees of retirement homes – has been added to the list of sectors under pressure by the coronavirus pandemic.

« Thousands of workers could be recruited to strengthen » the sector through a relaxation of the rules for issuing 12-month work visas, the government said on Friday. These measures are to come into force at the beginning of next year, for a period of one year.

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