Business event to highlight the importance of EU migration for region’s agribusiness

CBI to host talk in Ely about how EU migration is important for sectors like agriculture. Picture: S

CBI to host talk in Ely about how EU migration is important for sectors like agriculture. Picture: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Business leaders will today hear about the importance of migration for the East of England agri-business, following the Government’s latest statement on how immigration could work post-Brexit.

President of the Confederation of British Industry John Allan will address hundreds of business men and women at the CBI’s East of England Annual Dinner at Ely Cathedral, which begins tonight at 7pm.

In his speech, he will tell the audience how European migration of all skill levels has helped the region and will praise the contribution of migrant workers in agribusiness.

Introducing his speech this evening, Mr Allan, will say: “The Fens account for half our country’s grade one farmland, growing more than a third of our vegetables, a quarter of our potatoes and nearly 40pc of our flowers.

“It’s not just the farms but the whole supply chain – from processing plants to logistics firms carrying produce to market.

“In agribusiness, migration matters. Today, EU workers make up 60pc of employees on our seasonal poultry farms. They constitute 75pc of our fruit and veg pickers and 85pc of our skilled abattoir vets.

“No other sector has a higher migrant workforce.”

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On the need to dispel myths around migration, Mr Allan will say: “Last week’s migration report was the most detailed review into economic effects of migration ever conducted.

“And it dispelled the greatest myth of all – that migration is bad for our country. It found no evidence that European migrants have reduced jobs for UK workers.

“There was little, if any impact on wages. And that European migrants pay more in tax than they take out. These are important findings.

“The report recognises that 99pc of seasonal agricultural workers are from the EU. Without them, many businesses would close.”

On why migration should be on the table in trade negotiations, Mr Allan believes the freedom of movement “as we understand today” must end but that migration would be “powerful in striking better trade deals.”

Mr Allan will appeal to change the national conversation on migration, saying: “Migrants have brought skill, knowledge, care in our hospitals, teaching in our schools.

“So as the Government sets a new migration policy, I also think we need to seek a new national mindset about immigration.”