• Brexit: Government will have to make cuts if UK crashes out of EU with no deal, Philip Hammond admits: Philip Hammond has admitted telling ministers to prepare to make cuts if the UK crashes out of the EU with no agreement, after “Operation Yellowhammer” was revealed. The admission came after a secret Treasury document – entitled Operation Yellowhammer – was photographed, revealing the need for “internal reprioritisation” of departmental spending. Mr Hammond has previously warned of a near 8 per cent hit to GDP from a no-deal Brexit, which would blow an £80 billion hole in the public finances. The concession opens up the prospect of austerity continuing into the next decade, despite growing pressure – including from some Tory MPs – to turn the spending taps back on. It also threatens to reignite the Conservative party’s civil war over Brexit, after Mr Hammond was accused of a fresh “Project Fear” when he last warned against a no-deal departure. And, if the UK does crash out with no agreement, it would appear to blow a hole in Theresa May’s much-disputed claim that a “Brexit dividend” can help deliver her promised £20 billion boost to the NHS. (Independent)
  • Trial scheme planned for post-Brexit farm workers: The UK government will test a new scheme for non-EU agricultural workers next year in an attempt to ensure that after Brexit, British farmers can continue to recruit migrant labourers. The National Farmers Union and MPs have called for a special arrangement for workers as concerns mount over fruit and vegetables being left to rot on British farms because of a shortage of labour. Workers from mainland Europe – particularly poorer eastern European countries such as Romania and Bulgaria (which constitute a significant supply of labour for agriculture) – have filled the gap in farms’ labour in recent years. There has however been a slowdown in the arrival of European workers lately, especially in the case of Romanians and Bulgarians. The shortage is part of a wider slowdown in arrivals of workers from mainland Europe since the June 2016 Brexit referendum. MPs from many rural areas have thus been putting pressure on ministers to introduce a new scheme. Under the new pilot, which will run for two years from next spring, 2,500 non-EU workers will be recruited by two authorised agencies to work for up to six months each year on UK fruit and vegetable farms. Minette Batters, NFU president, hailed the move as a victory for the industry. “Farmers and growers have seen worker availability tighten significantly in recent years, with the shortfall so far this year reaching 10 per cent,” she said. “Growers will take great confidence in knowing that they will have access to workers for the 2019 harvest, during what have been extremely testing and uncertain times for the sector.”. (Financial Times)