Rules on seasonal farm labour post-Brexit – what do we know?

Defra has published new guidance for food and farming businesses wanting to employ seasonal workers from the European Union after Brexit.

The note says that the UK will remain open for seasonal work after Brexit, but the arrangements will be different for people wishing to work longer than three months, depending on whether the UK leaves the EU with a deal or not.

If there is a deal, then there will be no change to current arrangement for EU citizens in 2019 and 2020, with workers able to enter the UK on either an EU passport or EU national ID.

See also: Labour providers to pilot seasonal workers scheme 

However, if the UK doesn’t reach a deal then any EU citizens arriving after 29 March and wanting to stay for more than three months will need to register for European Temporary Leave to Remain to continue working in the UK.

This will involve identity, criminality and security checks, but assuming these are passed then applicants will be given permission to stay and work for up to three years on a temporary, non-extendable basis.

A new UK skills-based immigration system would then begin on 1 January 2021.

In the event of a no deal, it will not be necessary to apply for any immigration status or a visa if people are not intending to stay in the UK for more than three months.

The guidance is likely to disappoint farm leaders who have been pushing for the length of time temporary leave to remain is granted to be extended to six months, or even a year.

NFU representatives have said they are concerned that three months will be considered too short and will become another reason for EU nationals looking for seasonal work to choose another EU country rather than come to the UK.