Leave voters 'back seasonal workers scheme'

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Michael Barker

BY MICHAEL BARKER

@michaelbarker

Leave voters 'back seasonal workers scheme'

New research suggests that even those who voted for Brexit are in favour of a scheme for seasonal workers post-2019

Leave voters 'back seasonal workers scheme'

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The majority of Leave voters still believe a visa scheme should be in place for seasonal workers, a new survey indicates.

According to research by Ipsos MORI on behalf of British Summer Fruits (BSF), some 61 per cent of Leave voters said there should be a work visa scheme in place post-Brexit for EU citizens working in seasonal jobs such as fruit picking.

Overall, 67 per cent of adults aged 18-75 think EU citizens who are coming to work in seasonal jobs should be offered work visas, compared to only 17 per cent who think they should not.

Crucially, 41 per cent of Leave voters said they believed a reduction of British fruit grown would not be a price worth paying to reduce the number of EU citizens coming to the UK, compared to 35 per cent who believe it would be.

More than a third (35 per cent) of adults think EU seasonal workers are currently included within the UK’s net migration figures, while over a quarter (27 per cent) don’t know.

The new study comes as the UK horticulture industry continues its campaign to convince government that measures need to be put into place to ensure a seasonal workforce and prevent a decline in the UK industry.

Currently as many as 20 per cent of soft-fruit farms have reported experiencing labour shortages this summer due to the uncertainity of Brexit and the fall of the pound against the euro.

Nearly 80 per cent of BSF members have experienced early leavers, with almost 50 per cent of growers putting this down to Brexit.

BSF chairman Laurence Olins said: “We have outlined how extreme it gets. We already have a shortage of workers this summer. We really need government to understand the urgency of getting a system in place. We know the government have recognised the issue, but they need to work faster.”

Home secretary Amber Rudd has commissioned a report on migrant workers to be published in September next year. But Olins added: “Yes, this is a step in the right direction, but it simply is not good enough. We need an interim report by the end of the year to allow us to implement a system in 2018 so we can recruit for the next season.

“This is as extreme as it gets. If we do not have the pickers, we do not have a soft-fruit industry. It is evident from our new research that people who voted to leave the European Union did not want to destroy an iconic and incredibly competitive British horticulture industry and see the end of buying British produce. 

“But if we cannot ensure access to the seasonal workers needed to produce soft fruit in Britain, that will be an unintended consequence of Brexit — along with soaring prices and increased reliance on imports.”

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