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Will Brexit have a detrimental impact on my agricultural career?

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Workers in the entire agricultural, food and growing sector in the UK, alongside potential agricultural/horticultural graduates, will be keen to see exactly what impact Brexit will have on career prospects and job opportunities over the longer term. And, it's really difficult to for anybody to forecast exactly what is likely to happen until agreements are in place. 

There's been a good deal of in-depth debate about the Brexit issue here at Agricultural Recruitment Specialists, and though we can't make any cast iron guarantees, our experts have come up with the following pointers for some professionals and workers across the veterinary, agricultural and growing sectors:

Veterinary sector

The UK government announced the issue of a €4mn tender for vets at UK border posts in February 2019, this will prove an ongoing requirement whether the UK faces a no deal Brexit or exits the EU with a negotiated settlement (https://www.thejournal.ie/veterinarians-border-posts-4508898-Feb2019/). What's more, cutting the UK links with the EU will mean pet owners travelling abroad with their dog, cat or ferret will no longer be automatically entitled to a pet passport. This is likely to increase numbers of owners requiring health checks and rabies vaccinations for pets after Brexit (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/taking-your-pet-abroad-if-theres-no-brexit-deal/taking-your-pet-abroad-if-theres-no-brexit-deal).

It's not all great news for the veterinary sector in the UK, however. It's currently estimated that nine in every ten vets currently working in official capacities in the UK originated from the EU. In the abattoir sector, up to three-quarters of veterinary workers originated from the EU. This is likely to leave a gaping hole right across the veterinary sector, which is unlikely to be filled by UK veterinary graduates over the short term (https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/832784/Brexit-news-Britain-shortage-vets-leaves-EU-Lords-warn).

Farming and horticultural sector

Across the farming and agricultural sectors, it's possible Brexit could create opportunities for market-led entrepreneurs. Government statistics already show that 30% of the food consumed in the UK originates in Europe (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/food-statistics-pocketbook-2017/food-statistics-in-your-pocket-2017-global-and-uk-supply). Warmer temperatures, more modern farming methods and a longer growing season do mean increased opportunities for growers prepared to invest within the sector. However, it's already been highlighted that leaving the EU has severely impacted on the numbers of seasonal workers recruited to UK farms at harvest times (https://www.agrirs.co.uk/blog/2018/05/shortages-of-farming-seasonal-workers-likely-to-impact-2018-harvest-and-beyond).

Growers without the ability to access a ready market of skilled human harvesters may well be unsure about the feasibility of investing added funds into expanding production, without any guarantees of a harvesting workforce. Scientists have indicated that robotic fruit pickers will be available by the Brexit date, but this development is still at a trial stage and is unlikely to be commercially available from summer of 2019 (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/brexit-latest-fruit-pickers-robot-eu-migrant-workers-essex-university-eastern-europe-a8511321.html).

Many growers and farmers are adopting a "wait and see" attitude towards Brexit, although stockpiling of feed and fertilisers has also become quite commonplace across the sector. It's presently the case that the UK produces almost 50% of its own food, with beverages, meat and fresh fruit and veggies forming the bulk of imported foods. For many farmers and growers, the opportunity to withdraw from the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and benefit from UK-specific agricultural policies is very attractive. One of the major drawbacks of EU policies over the years has been their focus on smaller farmers and set aside of land (http://www.ecifm.rdg.ac.uk/setaside.htm). A number of UK growers will relish the opportunities presented by Brexit as a way to claw back agricultural land to bring it back to full production (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/10/brexit-leaving-eu-farming-agriculture).

One thing is absolutely clear, the UK farming and growing sector will be totally different once Brexit takes place. How the sector actually develops will be exciting as there are likely to be so many opportunities that do arise. At present, UK government focus is on a potential trade deal with the United States, and any deal which sacrifices the high quality and standards in agriculture and growing that have been built up over decades could be a body blow to the sector.

So how will Brexit really impact on my agricultural career?

In all honesty, it's very difficult to forecast just how Brexit will impact on job opportunities and career growth for UK workers and graduates. We're still seeing plenty of national and global opportunities for senior agricultural managers, farm workers and food sector roles here at Agricultural Recruitment Specialists (https://www.agrirs.co.uk/job-search).  We do anticipate that European vacancies will take a hit over the shorter term until a viable trade deal between the UK and EU sets out exactly what requirements will be in place for overseas workers. It could be the case that UK citizens will only have the ability to work for six months at a time in the EU, in this sort of situation developing a viable European career looks a bit negative.

One food sector likely to achieve growth and positive results from Brexit is the fishing industry which has been a virtual dodo in the UK for many years, due to European fishing quotas. Regaining control over UK waters will be essential for the development of the sector. However, sourcing the right workforce and teams may be difficult for an industry which has been in decline for so long now. 

If you're interested in just what the government are doing about agricultural, fishing and growing policies now and in the years following Brexit, the UK government website offers lots of information about committee work and potential legislation that will be put in place (https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/eu-referendum/farming-fishing-and-animal-welfare/).

Get in touch with Agricultural Recruitment Specialists (www.agriRS.co.uk) to find out all the ways our professional teams can assist in your career development. If you're an employer in the UK or overseas, take time to browse our website to discover the reasons we're so highly regarded within the professional recruitment sector for agriculture, horticulture and a wide variety of food and rural jobs. Our advisers will be happy to speak with you about any vacancies and have access to some of the most highly qualified agricultural experts in the sector.