The government is currently failing to commit to a seasonal workers scheme for Kent farmers following the EU referendum result, despite calls from the county’s unions and government figures.
According to local farmers, MPs have been pressuring ministers for the introduction of a pilot scheme that would help to tackle the immediate shortage of temporary labour, as many owners admit they are close to closing their farms.
However, officials have revealed that nothing has been done to address the problem after former environment secretary Andrea Leadsom suggested that such a scheme would be unnecessary.
Commenting on the issues, Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately said: “Every summer, farmers in my constituency require thousands of workers to pick their delicious fruit.
She continued: “But there are only 705 people in Faversham and Mid Kent unemployed and claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance and it’s very difficult for them to recruit enough workers locally.”
However, immigration minister Brandon Lewis has suggested that ongoing talks will seek to address the UK work permit and immigration issues that could be causing the farmers to struggle.
According to Mr Lewis, he plans to work with Defra secretary Michael Gove and home secretary Amber Rudd to ensure UK immigration laws continue to allow free movement of European workers once Brexit has been negotiated to prevent farms from struggling.
In the meantime, local farmers have met with members of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the independent body responsible for advising the Home Office on its policies for immigration to the UK, to demonstrate first hand the contribution migrant workers make to their businesses during the peak season.