Cornwall appeals to government as crops ‘rot in fields’ due to shortage in migrant labour after Brexit

The local council authority in the region, which voted strongly to leave the EU, says it is concerned by 'a sharp fall in the number of EU workers'

Joseph Gamp
Saturday 11 November 2017 11:11 GMT
Cornwall appeals to government as crops 'rot in fields' due to shortage in migrant labour after Brexit

Crops in Cornwall are said to be "rotting in the fields" due to a lack of migrant workers to harvest them in the wake of Britain's decision to leave the European Union.

The county council has approached the Government to request it implement area-specific migration laws after Brexit, will help to deliver skills to the area.

Cornwall voted to leave the European Union in last year's referendum by more than 56 per cent, considerably above the national average. The area is home to 17,000 EU nationals, making up 3 per cent of the county's population. But research commissioned by the council found that, since the Brexit vote, staffing levels for farms had dropped to 65 per cent of what would normally be required.

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The study found that changes to migration laws following Britain’s exit from the EU could lead to multimillion pound losses if the horticultural industry cannot find the skilled work force it needs.

“If we put strict limits on Eastern European migrant labour or devise alternative immigration policies that limit so-called ‘low-skilled’ labour, the Cornish horticultural industry is finished," said David Simmons of Riviera Produce, one of Cornwall's biggest producers.

Cornwall Council Leader Adam Paynter called for the government to take a location-based approach to future migrant workforces.

"Many of our major industries such as horticulture could be severely impacted and are already feeling the pinch with some of our crops rotting in the fields following a sharp fall in the number of EU workers.

"We are working with local partners to improve skills and employment for local people, but there will always be an important place in the Cornish economy for seasonal and migrant workers, particularly in the horticultural industry.

"We are calling on the government to take a place-based approach to future migration, to make sure that the Cornish economy has access to skills which may not be highly valued in London but which are vital to a major rural economy like ours.”

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