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Farmers union calls for clarity on visas for seasonal workers

Theresa May 'can't handle' hard Brexit MPs
Theresa May 'can't handle' hard Brexit MPs

A farming organisation has called for clarification on post-Brexit immigration policy, particularly around seasonal workers.

National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) policy director, Jonathan Hall, confirmed that north-east farmers are already finding it harder to source seasonal fruitpickers and plans should be set out “sooner rather than later” to address the issue.

Mr Hall made a plea for Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme visas to be reinstated.

He said: “We must have access to skilled labour, both on and off farms, both seasonal and permanent. Our numbers of soft fruit pickers in Angus are already dropping down.

“For the last 16 months, we have been asking about freedom of movement and controlled movement, but we just get silence.

“We will get to a point where there will be some sort of seasonal agricultural workers scheme, which seemed to work quite well and it gave sufficient control.”

However, Theresa May scrapped the previous visa system in 2007, following the EU accession of Bulgaria and Romania, and calls for it to be reinstated following Brexit have so far fallen on deaf ears.

Mr Hall added he did not think there was much alternative, given that any sort of differentiated immigration deal for Scotland would lead to border controls, so a registration scheme would have to be the main option.

He said: “I can’t see Scotland having its own immigration scheme because I don’t want to see some sort of checkpoint at Berwick.

“We’re also in the same position as colleagues south of the border, because there is a huge requirement for seasonal workers across processing, abbatoirs, vets.

“If we can have electronic identification for sheep and goats, we should be able to set up an electronic registration system, but we have not had any real answers at all.

“We’re looking for the government to resolve these issues sooner rather than later, but it is an area we have struggled to get any traction on.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Agriculture and rural policy are already fully devolved, and we will strongly oppose any attempt to repatriate powers from Brussels to Westminster instead of the Scottish Parliament.

“Scottish farmers should not be left a penny worse off as a result of Brexit, and we support the NFUS in pushing the UK Government for guarantees to that effect.”

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