2017-08-05 08:45:04 UTC
"Farms in the UK rely on fruit and vegetable pickers from the European
Union. But this summer theyre staying away, and the harvest will be
"In the wake of an ocean of writing linking Brexit to the zeitgeisty
Dunkirk spirit, heres one more martial metaphor. Self-evidently, this
is the phoney war stage of the process. Negotiations have barely
started; the prime minister is on holiday. Most importantly, the
fragile tangle of threads that defines what passes for Britains
economic wellbeing -- that mixture of affordable essentials, freely
available credit and dependable house prices which ensures no one gets
too uppity about stagnating wages -- just about remains intact.
Meanwhile, ministers -- and Labour politicians -- talk about the
fundamentals of leaving the European Union as if we can push Brussels
in any direction we fancy and freely choose no end of measures to ease
our passage out.
"The recent noise about freedom of movement is a case in point. If the
government has a coherent position, it seems to be that migration from
the EU under current rules will end in 2019, but also carry on, with
-- according to the home secretary, anyway -- the proviso that during
an 'implementation phase' of up to four years, people from the EU will
simply have to add their names to a national register. Thus, a great
human army which keeps so much of Britains economy ticking over will
still be available, just as long as the right arrangements are put in
"This is, of course, somewhat less than credible, as evidenced by a
mounting crisis that has yet to turn critical but is bubbling away
across the country. At the very least, we are fundamentally changing
the basis on which people can live and work in the UK, swapping
residence as a right for a much more uncertain system dependent on
"If you wanted to be more dramatic, you might say that the 2016
European referendum in effect put a huge neon sign over Britain,
saying, 'Foreigners not welcome'. And to make matters worse, the value
of sterling is making coming here even less attractive.
" 'The perception from overseas is we are xenophobic, were racist,
and the pound has plummeted too. Weve gone with Brexit and that makes
us look unfriendly.' Those are the words of John Hardman, director of
Hops Labour Solutions, which supplies about 12,000 workers a year to
food-growers. He reckons that when it comes to 'food-picking jobs in
agriculture -- which means everything from strawberries to brussels
sprouts', there is currently a Brexit-related shortfall of about 20%,
which chimes with recent surveys by the National Farmers Union."
And even if we decided one way or another to stay in, the damage has
already been done. Those pickers from the EU will likely stay away for
years to come, irrespective of what kind of -- or any -- Brexit
there is. Until at least signs appear that the natives are friendly.
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