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Ministers are considering reducing the English language skills threshold for qualified butchers, so they can be recruited from the EU under temporary visas.
The move would be a response to the developing pig farming crisis, which has seen 150,000 animals stuck on farms, leading to welfare concerns and culls.
One prominent immigration lawyer has said that if the government made such a move, many other sectors of the economy would demand similar measures leading to an overly complex visa system.
This scenario would then put the prime minister's stated intention of developing more skilled British workers under severe stress.
According to a report in the i newspaper the cabinet is divided on the issue with environment secretary George Eustice and cabinet office minister Stephen Barclay in favour of lifting barriers that are preventing key sector workers entering the UK, but home secretary Priti Patel and business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng keen on maintaining current policy.
The skilled worker visa is open to butchers from abroad to work here but many of them do not meet English language standards or have qualifications at A-level or equivalent.
Eustice told the Farmers Weekly podcast that he was considering whether “tweaks” of the language threshold could be made to allow more butchers to work in abattoirs.
“We brought in a temporary visa scheme for poultry because there’s a very clear seasonal demand for around 5,500 people to work in the poultry sector,” he said.
“We don’t quite have that same rush on pigs, but what we are looking to do is see if we can make some tweaks to the skills list