|Editorial Commentary: Surely we can come up with some compromises on ‘Free Movement of people’|
Even if ‘Brexit means Brexit’ movement of people/workers will continue to some degree, just to ensure the UK’s economy will continue to function smoothly.
Not only is this a ‘hot topic’, it is a massive one covering many areas of the UK economy (including the NHS) so, for the sake of brevity, I will only (briefly) address a few aspects of one area – seasonal farm workers.
Most UK residents are generally seeking all-year round jobs for obvious reasons, but farms require peak levels of staffing for only limited periods of the year, so providing an area of possible ‘agreement’ in the Brexit negotiations.
If we revived a version of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Scheme it would facilitate the ability of workers from the Eastern Europe & Baltic countries to come & earn more than a year’s wages in their ‘homeland’ in just a few months as ‘guest workers’ (i.e. without bringing their families over or receiving state benefits). The UK government would need to ‘beef-up’ its monitoring & enforcement of pay & conditions to ensure our ‘guests’ were treated fairly and received their due. This would help ensure UK workers were not undercut.
In addition we should perhaps consider an online identity system for them (with bio-security measures, photo, etc.), which would have to be periodically validated by the employing farmer so as to ensure a worker didn’t just use his NI number to move on to another area of work (office cleaning, etc.) in competition with UK residents. The halting of periodic validation could help stop access to public sector services and highlight any ‘over-stayers’.
It is possible to set up some win/win agreements on the movement of people, but it will take time to address the issues involved so as to ‘deliver’ Brexit. Not so much ‘Free Movement’ as ‘Agreed Movement’!