Two years after Britain left the E.U., ending the ability of the bloc’s citizens to automatically work in Britain, the effects of Brexit are unfolding across the economy. They include a shortfall of around 330,000 workers, which has hit Britain’s food and farming sectors particularly hard. About $27 million worth of fruit and vegetables went unharvested last year.
Polling suggests that Britons’ sentiments have begun to shift against Brexit, as business owners cite difficulty in finding workers, as well as thorny trade issues and what they describe as onerous paperwork requirements. Farmers say that even with immigration from outside Europe, there are not enough workers to sustain previous production levels, especially at peak times.
In the years since Britain voted to quit the E.U., many Eastern Europeans have left the country, including many during the coronavirus pandemic, and Brexit is making it hard to recruit replacements. Although there are visa initiatives for seasonal agricultural workers, they are intended more for shorter stays and for employers who provide temporary housing.
“It doesn’t seem to be as advantageous for some East European employees to come over and try and make a living because it’s more competitive to be back in their own country,” said Simon Beardsley, the chief executive for Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce.