Eustice and Goodwill to face EFRA committee to give Defra view on Brexit worker issues

Defra minister George Eustice MP, and Robert Goodwill MP, minister of state for immigration at the Home Office are to give evidence to MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee, which has launched an inquiry into the challenges to the food supply chain from shortages of workers.

Defra minister George Eustice
Defra minister George Eustice

Some 80,000 horticultural workers come from outside the UK. Previous evidence givers such as HTA adviser David Brown warned that there will be a shortage of labour post-Brexit in 2019.

The horticulture sector is facing a labour crisis with free movement of workers within the EU expected to end after Brexit completes in 2019. Figures from Defra's agricultural accounts put the value of paid labour at £2.5bn in 2015, equating to around 14% of total financial inputs.

The number of regular employees in UK agriculture, excluding seasonal and casual labour, is 115,000. If seasonal and casual labour is included, the total rises to 182,000. Office for National Statistics figures show more than 22,000 EU-born migrants working in agriculture in 2015, rising 41% since 2011. This is around 20% of the 115,000 regular employees in the sector.

Seasonal EU workers form a much larger proportion. Brown told the EFRA committee last month that a new Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) is required "to fill the hole".

Meanwhile, the European Scrutiny and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committees has met jointly to take evidence from Eustice to hear his evidence on the implications of Brexit for fisheries and agriculture.

Committee chairmen Bill Cash MP and Neil Parish MP questioned Eustice on how Defra will tackle Brexit's bureaucratic challenges.

Eustice said 80% of laws Defra deals with are EU laws and 45% of all EU laws fall within Defra's remit.

He added that other departments are looking to Defra "for answers on Brexit issues" because Defra has called up so many staff to work on Brexit and sector-related free trade agreements.

In answer to a question from Parish, Eustice said because food and farming, at £100bn a year, was the UK's "largest manufacturing industry", Defra would not allow the financial sector or car industry to stop Defra sectors getting a "fair share" of trade deals.

Eustice said that in the past, Defra policy had "simply been ceded to the EU". When Parliament "takes back control, you also take back responsibility", he said.

Parish said new trade deals may open the door to lower standards of product being imported, such as chlorine-dipped chickens.

Eustice added the UK had moved more towards provenance and higher standards than the US's "lower cost of production" model. Parish interpeted Eustice's answer to "more consumer resistance than trade resistance because I don't think we will eb able to stop it [imports under World Trade Organisation rules]."


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Ceanothus

Ceanothus

These shrubs or small trees produce mainly blue flowers and fantastic glossy leaves, writes Miranda Kimberley.

Pest & Disease Factsheet - Moles

Pest & Disease Factsheet - Moles

Protect against root damage caused by tunnelling.

Nicotiana

Nicotiana

Very popular among experienced gardeners, these plants often give off a sweet fragrance, says Miranda Kimberley.


Production stars take innovation lead at UK Grower Awards and Garden Retail Awards

Production stars take innovation lead at UK Grower Awards and Garden Retail Awards

Over the past week it has been the great privilege of the Horticulture Week team to welcome more than 700 leading horticulture professionals to three great industry events - the Garden Retail Awards 2017, the UK Grower Awards 2017 and the third Garden Retail Summit, all hosted by Horticulture Week.

UK Grower Awards winners demonstrate exceptional talent

UK Grower Awards winners demonstrate exceptional talent

Welcome to this special presentation of the achievements of the outstanding winners of the UK Grower Awards 2017.

Opinion: Edwards On... Plant supply and health

Opinion: Edwards On... Plant supply and health

Increasingly, and rightly, plant health/biosecurity is being recognised as something of which all of us involved in plant supply must be aware.


Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.