Despite internal pressure within the ruling Conservative party to reduce immigration, the UK government has recently announced its commitment to issuing 45,000 visas for seasonal workers in the agricultural sector next year. This decision comes as net migration, which experienced a decline during the pandemic, is anticipated to reach a record high this year. In this article, we will delve into the government’s stance on seasonal worker visas, the challenges faced by the farming industry, and the measures taken to support it.
Net Migration on the Rise
Net migration in the UK, after experiencing a decline during the pandemic, has been steadily increasing. As reported by British media, it is anticipated to reach a record high this year. Official figures regarding net migration are expected to be released later this month, shedding light on the extent of this increase.
Internal Pressure vs. Seasonal Worker Visas
During a conference in London on Monday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman, known for her hardline stance, asserted that there was “no good reason” why Britain couldn’t train its own lorry drivers and fruit pickers, thereby reducing the need for immigration. This statement reflects the internal pressure within the ruling Conservative party to reduce immigration.
However, Downing Street defended the decision to continue granting seasonal worker visas. A spokesperson emphasized the flexibility of the current rules, allowing the system to adapt based on the needs of the UK. The historically low unemployment rate in the country was also highlighted as a factor supporting the government’s decision.
Support Measures for the Farming Industry
Recognizing the significant challenges faced by the farming industry, the UK government announced a package of measures to support it. The industry has experienced supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, as well as increased costs resulting from the conflict in Ukraine, which has affected the prices of fertilizers, feed, fuel, and energy.
Stricter Immigration Rules and Brexit Impact
Following Brexit and the end of free movement within EU member states, stricter immigration rules have made it more difficult for British agriculture, which traditionally relied on workers from the EU bloc, to hire labor. Additionally, the industry faces competition from imported agricultural products, adding to the challenges it already faces.
Government’s Pledge and Protection for Farmers
Ahead of the UK Farm to Fork Summit hosted by Downing Street, the government pledged to provide greater protections for farmers in future trade agreements. Acknowledging the importance of British farming and produce, the government aims to prioritize new export opportunities to support the industry.
Prime Minister’s Commitment
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed his commitment to the agricultural sector in an open letter to British farmers. He stated, “British farming and British produce simply cannot be an afterthought. I know that is how some of you felt in the past.” This statement highlights the government’s recognition of the concerns and challenges faced by farmers.
Grants for Innovation and Development
Last February, the government announced over £168 million (approximately 193 million euros) in grants to support farmers. These grants aim to drive the development of new technologies and innovative farming methods. By investing in innovation, the government aims to ensure the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of the farming industry.