Countryside Alliance Chief Executive, Tim Bonner, and Political Relations Manager, James Somerville-Meikle, met the Immigration Minister, Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP, on Wednesday (11 October) to discuss the importance of seasonal workers from the EU to the rural economy.

UK farmers and producers employ approximately 80,000 seasonal workers every year, the vast majority of these people from countries within the EU. Seasonal workers are also important for other businesses in the rural economy such as game farming and forestry. The meeting was an opportunity to stress the need for access to the EU labour market to continue post Brexit which should include the reintroduction of a Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme to allow rural businesses to employ the workers they need at crucial times of the year.

The Minister said that whilst freedom of movement “as we know it” will end in March 2019 when we leave the EU, he gave an assurance that there would be no “cliff edge” facing businesses that employ workers from countries within the EU. However, he stressed that the Government was committed to reducing migration and, where possible, there should be greater emphasis on training and recruiting domestic workers. The Government has commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to examine the impact of migration from the EU on the UK economy and will report in September 2018.

Tim and James asked the Minister to ensure that our new travel arrangements with the EU support country sports tourism and, that in return, our sportsmen and women remain able to enjoy the many shooting experiences which Europe has to offer free from visas or un-necessary bureaucracy.

The Minister said that he hoped to see visa free travel continue for leisure trips, and did not want to see any new restrictions on the movement of firearms. He said that the Government was working to increase the numbers of people who can visit the UK from outside the EU without the need for a visa in order to promote tourism.

Commenting on the meeting, Tim Bonner said “It is essential that the needs of businesses across the rural economy are included in our new immigration policy and during the transition period. Shooting is a vital part of the rural economy and must not be overlooked during the Brexit process”.