Fears of fruit farm labour crisis allayed by MP

Punnets of raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries
Punnets of raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries

Mike Weir MP has secured an eleventh hour reprieve for EU seasonal workers to enter the UK after the triggering of Article 50 – allaying fears of an Angus fruit farmers’ crisis.

Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to begin official proceedings to quit the European Union later this month and reports had suggested she would put immediate travel restrictions on migrant workers.

That could have caused chaos amongst fruit farms across Angus – with around 10 per cent of the estimated 15,000 seasonal migrant workers who enter Scotland annually – employed locally.

But after raising the issue twice at the House of Commons – firstly with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Food Minister George Eustice and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Mr Weir has finally been given a guarantee that EU migrant workers will be free to enter the country this summer.

The Angus MP said: “Many fruit and vegetable growers in Angus and throughout Scotland rely on temporary migrant labour to pick their produce and have already entered into contracts for the coming summer season.

“Flights had been booked, contracts agreed and suppliers such as supermarkets had orders that they expected to be fulfilled. Then reports emerged claiming there could be immediate restrictions placed on the freedom of movement to EU migrant workers as soon as Article 50 is triggered.

“There were genuine concerns amongst the industry that they may not be able to fulfil these contracts – without assurances from the UK Government over EU migrant workers.

“Had the UK government altered the rules to prevent them coming it would have caused havoc in these industries leaving fruit and vegetable unpicked. Many firms could have lost a substantial amount of money.

“I was initially given a very confusing and contradictory answer when I pursued the Minister but I am pleased the Home Secretary has now given me an assurance that my constituents and other firms can safely implement their contracts.”