In the three years since the Brexit vote, there has been a decline in immigration from some areas in Europe. And this is impacting agri businesses across the country. The number of people migrating to the UK from the wider EU for work is at its lowest level in six years.
There are still more EU citizens moving to Britain than leaving; however, immigration from Central and Eastern European countries has not followed this pattern.
David Figgis grows apples and strawberries for supermarkets in the small British town Kent. His farm is almost entirely dependent on Eastern European labour. More than three years ago, David voted ‘Leave’ on the Brexit referendum because he was fed up with unelected bureaucracies making decisions in Luxembourg. David stands by his vote but says the ways things have panned out has been a “disaster”.
“I voted for something that is better for my country. Personally, I think it's a disaster.”
Foreign labour is crucial for David’s business, he employs seasonal workers from Eastern European countries like Romania. “On Friday morning [after the Brexit vote], the phone dried up from Romania and Bulgaria. Why go work from a country where you're told you're not wanted? At least that’s how they read it.”
The standards of living in Eastern Europe has been increasing in the past decade. Romania was the fastest growing economy in the EU in 2017, with an estimated GDP growth rate of 6.4 per cent.