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Non-EU migrant workers employable within weeks?

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PROVISIONAL measures to allow migrant workers into Jersey from outside the EU are under ‘active consideration’ and may be only ‘weeks away’, the Home Affairs Minister has said.

Constable Len Norman made the comment during a week when the Jersey Farming Conference has hosted experts speaking about the possible risks that Brexit could pose to the Island’s agricultural sector.

Dr David Swales, head of strategic insight at the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, opened the Brexit section of the conference at La Mare Wine Estate yesterday.

He warned local farmers that they would need to start thinking about how the ‘disruption’ of Brexit in March next year might affect their businesses but reminded them that there would be opportunities as well as challenges.

‘There’s a whole host of complexity that is potentially coming,’ he said, ‘and now is the time for you to begin thinking about that. You will need to have a think about where your inputs are coming from and where your outputs are going to.’

Then, commenting on the market upheaval that will result from Brexit, he added: ‘You guys are very well placed to take advantage of some of that disruption.’

However, Peter Le Maistre, the president of the Jersey Farmers’ Union (JFU), said that local farmers had more pressing concerns, with time now running out to fill the industry’s ‘urgent’ labour shortage.

Commenting on the JFU’s request to the States for a trial of provisional measures to allow 130 migrant workers from the Ukraine to come and work in the Island for the 2019 season, Mr Le Maistre said that he was more optimistic now than when they had made a similar request to the previous Home Affairs Minister.

‘What has changed between the two ministers,’ he said, ‘is not necessarily the change of personality. It’s the fact that the UK government has now agreed that they are going to trial having 2,500 workers next April. And we’re saying to our government that April is too late for us because we plant potatoes in January.’

Mr Norman said that a decision over the industry’s request might only be weeks away.

‘The staffing issues raised by the agriculture industry are under active consideration,’ he said. ‘I am reviewing the Island’s current policy, while bearing in mind that any changes to Jersey’s immigration rules will need to meet our commitments to the Common Travel Area.’

Sam Le

By Sam Le
Journalist

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