Monday, 18 February 2019 14:58


With just 39 days until the UK is due to leave the EU, Michael Gove has shrugged off concerns over the status of EU nationals resident in the UK and of businesses dependent upon seasonal workers.

Speaking at the Big Rural Debate in Edinburgh this morning, the Secretary of State flippantly dismissed the fears of agri-food businesses who are already facing seasonal labour shortages of 15% with tons of fresh produce left to rot in Scotland’s fields last year. NFU Scotland has warned that Tory plans to grant only 2,500 visas for seasonal migrant workers post-Brexit are woefully inadequate for the sector’s needs.
Mr Gove also claimed there was no evidence that EU nationals were already leaving the UK due to Brexit. EU net migration to the UK has fallen since the EU referendum in 2016, and is estimated to be at its lowest level since 2012. Brexit has also seen the number of EU workers in the UK fall – with concerns about the long-term impact on key sectors of the rural economy such as agriculture, tourism and health and social care.
Commenting, Maureen Watt MSP who sits on Holyrood’s rural economy committee said:
“Michael Gove is ignoring the evidence, ignoring the voice of businesses, and shrugging off concern over the status of EU nationals.
“To dismiss out of hand the very real impact of Brexit is completely dishonest.
“We know that farmers and fruit growers are already finding it hard to attract seasonal workers – and have been forced to leave quality fruit and vegetables to rot in the fields. This will only get worse if we leave the EU.
“Skilled workers want to come to Scotland to live and to contribute to our economy. But already fewer of them are doing so because of Brexit, potentially leaving huge gaps in the workforce.
“And the Tories seem determined to make EU nationals already living here feel unwelcome – making them apply for the right to remain in their home. That is already creating huge anxiety for individuals and their families, with less than 40 days remaining until we’re due to leave the EU.
“Brexit continues to expose how badly Scotland’s interests are served by Westminster – a Tory government that doesn’t care about our interests and doesn’t listen, and a Labour party bitterly divided and not fit to govern.
“It’s increasingly obvious that Scotland needs to take all decisions over our future here in Scotland.” 

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