The organisation has claimed that the food and drink industry’s position as the biggest manufacturing sector in Scotland “will be at risk”, should the Government proceed with its post-Brexit immigration policy on high- and low-skilled workers.
The UK Government’s Immigration and Social Security Coordination Bill passed its first vote in the House of Commons on Monday (18 May). The Bill, if it receives Royal Assent, would establish the legal framework to end the free movement of people between the UK and the EU.
This would mean a points-based entry system for individuals who earned above a minimum salary of £25,600 and who were considered to be ‘highly skilled’.
The policy proposes to end all routes to permanent residence in the UK for workers deemed to be of ‘lower skill’ from 1 January 2021.
The NFUS said it “fundamentally disagrees” with the UK Government’s intention to end free movement after the expiry of the transition period.
Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) minister George Eustice revealed that only about a third of the usual harvest workers from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria were estimated to be in the country, and he called on UK furloughed workers to help.
“NFUS has always maintained that workers from outside the UK are highly valued in every sector represented in Scottish agriculture, food and drink,” said NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick.
“Quite simply, without the ability to recruit workers from outside the UK in a seasonal and permanent capacity, both on the farm and off the farm, our sector will not be able to reach its full potential and the food and drink sector’s position as the biggest manufacturing sector in Scotland will be at risk.”
NFUS has urged its members, who currently employ individuals from the EU in a permanent or a seasonal capacity, to ensure that their staff had registered for settled or pre-settled status. The scheme ensures that any individuals living and working in the EU either in a permanent or seasonal capacity before 31 December 2021 are able to stay and, in the case of pre-settled status, are able to return to work in the UK for five years following the end of transition.