Information Correct as of 28 December 2018

Where are we now?

Brexit negotiations with the EU are over, it seems, but the only thing that is certain in Westminster and Brussels is that we can expect a period of uncertainty as the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU, and the rest of the world, takes shape. This upheaval is an opportunity for the horticulture sector to shape policy and to progress on issues in the light of new personalities and priorities. For example, we are lobbying for senior representation for ornamental horticulture in the new government structure.

The next stage in the progress of Brexit is for Theresa May to get Parliament to vote the Withdrawal Agreement (The Deal) through. This will happen week beginning 14 January 2019, the exact date is yet to be announced. If the deal is not voted through then we will keep you updated with what this might mean for businesses.

The is still the possibility of a No Deal, and businesses should be preparing for this eventuality. We have issued alot of advice for members on what to do and what might happen. This advice can be found here

Keep up to date with current events by both keeping an eye on this page and also the Governments Brexit pages.

The BBC publish an excellent 'Brexit Basics' information page , which is updated regularly.

Representing your views

Even after the 29 March 2019 the UK's exit from the EU will be a lengthy process and many areas of government policy will be affected. We have used the results of our consultation to identify the issues you're most affected by. These form the basis our lobbying strategy, and as the situation develops we'll continue to consult closely with our members. The best advice we can offer is to assess what the opportunities and threats are for you from the future UK-EU relationship and let us know. We and our partners will ensure the voice of the horticulture sector is heard loud and clear in this process. You've told us you want representation on the following topics, and we continue to push in these areas.

Access to labour

  • We estimate that among commercial growers up to a third of the workforce is made up of non-UK, EU nationals.  EU nationals are heavily represented in the seasonal workforce.

Many businesses employ staff from the EU, benefiting from freedom of movement.  This allows recruitment from a wider talent pool  of the brightest and the best from across the EU (at a time when horticultural skills are in short supply and diminishing in the UK). Brexit could make accessing this talent much harder in the future, meaning that the sector may need to look to make alternative arrangements to fill vacancies. George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Defra has suggested that the UK could return to using seasonal agricultural workers schemes or other similar arrangements to solve the skills shortage, but this would require legislation. The has been a pilot scheme launched by government, but just for the soft fruit sector, and it is for non-EU Migrants.

The Government has announced its intention to use a skills-based immigration system, regardless of a workers country of origin.

The HTA is lobbying goverment to look very carefully at labour shortages post Brexit, and we wait with anticpation for the Immigration Bill, due to come out early January 2019. 

EU Citizens Currently Resident in the UK
For those EU Citizens who are already resident in the UK, the Government has announced an EU citizens Settlement Scheme. The scheme is based online, and EU Citizens need to register for 'Settled Status'. The cost is £65 per person. In order to maintain continuity of staff, some companies may wish to assist employees with applying for settled status, therefore the Government has issued an Employers Toolkit Pack to enable the process to be as simple as possible. The online application scheme is not fully open yet, but you can sign up for alerts on the governments website.

Plant health and environment regulation

  • As a major importer of plants and plant material, regulation on plant health has a major impact on UK horticulture businesses

The UK abides by several EU council directives designed to protect the environment and curb the spread of harmful pests and diseases. Whilst it is unlikely the rule book will be completely re-written once the UK is no longer part of the EU, not least due to international commitments (such as the International Plant Protection Convention) there is likely to be a lengthy debate on the merits of regulations as the UK decides which aspects of EU law it upholds and which it re-writes, or abandons altogether. Depending on the regulation or directive, this could be beneficial or potentially damaging to the sector, re-opening issues such as the appropriate use of neonicotinoids.

Given the level of interdependence between horticulture industries across the EU and shared challenges around biosecurity, plant health and innovation and skills, the sector will need to ensure that government maintains a collaborative and joined-up approach with other member states even in the aftermath of Brexit.

Brexit also means that decisions at the EU level may be delayed. We have already seen the decision on whether to relicense the use of glyphosate having been put on hold, as the EU focuses on negotiating the UK’s departure as a matter of urgency.

Customs & Excise

The Government has released its new Customs Declaration Service, replacing the old CHIEF system. Further information can be found here

Re-shaping regulation

Brexit has forced a process of legislative review in the UK, as Parliament decides which EU statutes and regulations should be replicated, amended or replaced in UK law.  Whilst elements of this will be linked to negotiations at the EU level, there will also be a clear and distinct domestic agenda – with many who voted for Brexit wanting to see the UK exercising its sovereignty and ridding itself of EU red tape.