Growers relieved after Home Office revises immigration rules

EU nationals will be allowed to live and work in the UK after 31 October even under a no-deal Brexit, the government has announced.

The Home Office announcement contradicts previous Brexit position statements which said the EU freedom of movement policy would end immediately after 31 October under a no-deal.

See also: Call for clarity on future of seasonal farmworkers

That position would have meant EU citizens could only enter Britain from November onwards on short-term visits, sparking concern over farm labour supplies.

However, the Home Office’s latest announcement sets out a range of measures termed ‘leave to remain’ that will replace the EU freedom of movement policy.

Leave to remain proposal

The policy will allow EU and Swiss workers, along with close family members, to enter Britain, even if they have not applied for settled or pre-settled status.

This initial free movement will only be possible for a transition period of 14 months until 31 December 2020.

After this date, any worker wishing to remain in the UK must have applied to stay under a new temporary leave to remain scheme.

The scheme will permit successful applicants to live and work in the UK for a maximum of three years.

Then, once the 36-month period is over, the worker will only be allowed to remain if they have qualified under the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy.

The new policy is yet to be finalised, but is expected to be in place from 2021 and based on points awarded according to the applicant’s skills and talent.

The Home Office added that all entrants will face more stringent background checks, including a tougher UK criminality threshold.

Questions to answer

NFU president Minette Batters has welcomed the clarification from the Home Office.

“Farmers and growers across the country will be relieved to have much-needed certainty on how they will recruit workers from the EU after 31 October, as the Home Office clarifies its post-Brexit immigration policy,” she said.

But she added that questions still remain about the UK’s future immigration policy.

“We are continuing to ask the government to expand the number of permits in its seasonal workers’ pilot scheme, in preparation for a transition to a fully functioning scheme in 2021,” she said.