UK ministers are set to treble the number of foreign workers allowed into the country to pick fruit and vegetables, hoping to ease fears of rotting harvests as a result of Brexit. Some 30,000 temporary staff will be given permits in 2021, up from 10,000 this year, under a document circulated for an announcement due next week.
The move comes despite the Home Office dismissing warnings that stricter post-Brexit immigration rules would leave crops unpicked, and insisting that domestic workers would plug the gap.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) attacked that stance, with the free movement of EU citizens due to stop when the transition period ends on 31 December. The NFU pointed to how the government’s high-profile Pick For Britain campaign – launched when the Covid-19 pandemic prevented EU workers coming over for the summer – has failed to attract British replacements.
But according to The Independent, Environment Secretary George Eustice has won a Whitehall battle for the annual ceiling of seasonal workers to be hiked to 30,000, higher than when a formal scheme was axed in 2013.