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Immigration will be Brexit priority, Minister tells NPA

5th Jan 2017 / By Alistair Driver

Controlling immigration will be a Brexit priority for the Government, Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill has told the NPA in response to calls for reassurances on the future supply of labour to the pig sector.

Robert GoodwillNPA chairman Richard Lister, in a joint letter with poultry industey leaders, wrote to Mr Goodwill recently warning of the consequences for the two sectors if the supply of EU labour was restricted post-Brexit. 

"Our ability to produce food for the nation will be undermined by a lack of access to EU labour," they wrote, calling for guarantees about the future of full-time workers who live in the UK, as well as short-term seasonal workers.

In his response, Mr Goodwill said: "The UK needs a fair and controlled immigration system.

"The British public have sent a clear message that it must be a priority in our negotiations to gain more control of the numbers of people who come here from Europe, and we will implement a system for the whole of the UK that delivers this. The precise way in which we do this, however, is yet to be determined."

He stressed the Government's desire to get the best deal for the UK, 'not least for our world-leading food and farming industry which is a key part of our economic success'.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference on Wednesday, Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom told delegates she was aware of ‘how important seasonal labour from the EU is to the everyday running of your business’.

Access to labour would be ‘very much an important part of our discussions’, she said. But, questioned on future access to full-time EU workers who want to live and work in the UK, she indicated this would be dependent on the Government’s post-Brexit policy on immigration.

Freedom to trade

The NPA has also received a response from International Trade Secretary Liam Fox to a letter from Mr Lister outlining the NPA's Brexit trade concerns

liam foxDr Fox said: "The Prime Minister has made it clear that she wants this deal to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the single market in goods and services."

But he said he was unable to comment further on the detail of the negotiations. 

He added that leaving the EU offers an opportunity to negotiate 'our own trade agreements' and develop a new trade policy that opens up new export opportunities and gives firms access to global supply chains.

"I hope the National Pig Association will lend its support to this important policy agenda" Dr Fox wrote. 

Brexit concerns 

Meanwhile, further questions are being asked about the Government's appraoch to the Brexit negotiations, following the shock resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK's ambassador to the EU.

In his parting email to staff at UKREP, the UK Permanent Representation to the EU, Sir Ivan, who has immediately been replaced by Sir Tim Barrow, highlighted problems inherent in the UK Government's current position. 

He said we did not yet know what the Government's negotiating objectives for a future EU-UK post Brexit relationship were, a point also highlighted for the food and farming sectors by Mrs Leadsom's stuttering performance at the OFC.

Sir Ivan also drew expressed his concern at the lack of 'serious multilateral negotiating experience' in Whitehall, echoing fears about Defra's lack of resource and experience voiced at the OFC.