Cornwall Council and the LEP recently submitted a response to a call for evidence from the Government’s Migration Advisory Committee. The research was based on a business survey, site visits, feedback from business and public sector bodies and national and local data sources.
Cornwall Council is calling on the Government to “make sure future migration laws deliver the right skills for the Cornish economy to prosper after we exit the EU” – with new research showing that Cornish farms are already unable to fully harvest crops this year due to a sharp fall in migrant labour.
Recent research commissioned by Cornwall Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership found changes to migration laws after Brexit could lead to multi-million pound losses to the Cornish economy if the horticultural industry can’t access the skills and workforce it needs. The research found that following the Brexit vote, recruitment immediately became more difficult for horticultural farms, harvests could not be lifted in full and staffing requirements were already dwindling to 65% of need.
Around 17,000 EU nationals are estimated to be living and working in Cornwall – approximately three per cent of the total population. There is no evidence that migrant labour is displacing the local workforce.
David Simmons of Riviera Produce, one of the biggest producers in Cornwall predicted dire impacts: “If we put strict limits on Eastern European migrant labour or devise alternative immigration policies that limit so-called ‘low-skilled’ labour, the Cornish horticultural industry is finished.”
Council Leader Adam Paynter called for Government to take a place-based approach to future migration and workforce. “Many of our major industries such as horticulture could be severely impacted and are already feeling the pinch with some of our crops rotting in the fields following a sharp fall in the number of EU workers.
Cornish Sea Salt & Luxury Pepper – 185g Tub £7.98
“We are working with local partners to improve skills and employment for local people, but there will always be an important place in the Cornish economy for seasonal and migrant workers, particularly in the horticultural industry. We are calling on the Government to take a place-based approach to future migration, to make sure that the Cornish economy has access to skills which may not be highly valued in London but which are vital to a major rural economy like ours”.
Sandra Rothwell, chief executive of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership said: “What this study demonstrates is that there are parts of the Cornish economy that are heavily reliant on migrant labour and that any emerging policy on movement of EU nationals must take this into account. We cannot afford a one-size fits all solution or the continued uncertainty that has already started to blight the labour market.”