Building a Better Britain
Two life-changing events have collided in 2020: Brexit which we chose, and the Covid-19 pandemic, which we most certainly didn’t.
Covid-19 has caused thousands of deaths and illness across the UK, it has disrupted our lives in ways we most of us had never even imagined possible, and if we allow it to, it may yet damage our economy for many years to come.
Things are going to change dramatically in the UK, whether we like it or not.
As we emerge from the pandemic lock down, and by the end of the year, hopefully manage to put a considerable distance between ourselves and the rapidly sinking, ‘not-so-good ship EU’,
– we have a golden opportunity to Build a Better Britain.
It’s “a once in a life time” chance to change our society for the better. We must not waste it.
We simply have to become more self sufficient, and we must shorten the supply chains for “our Essentials”,
– medicines, food, clothing etc.
In the future it will not be acceptable to have these spanning the globe, as in many cases they have tended to do in recent years.
Since the middle of March we have seen headlines in the UK predicting “crops will rot in fields, because lazy Brits don’t want to pick them, and the usual Eastern European work force won’t be coming”.
All over the country we have rocketing numbers of people becoming unemployed, furloughed workers, many until the end of October, and students being told they will not be able to attend college until September at the earliest.
Can it really be true that from this ‘huge well’ of potential workers, many million in number, farmers will be unable to recruit 70,000 people to help harvest our crops this Summer?
Of course it’s not true.
In my recent interview on Sputnik radio, I explain “what is really going on”, how Pick For Britain is just a ‘smoke and mirrors’ campaign,
– with most fruit and vegetable farms already receiving many thousands of applications from local Brits, it will simply create more heartache.
If they have caravans on site to house workers, which the vast majority do,
– farmers will only look to employ locals once they have given up all hope of filling these caravans with Eastern European migrant workers.
As Basil once famously said to Manuel in Fawlty Towers, “Let me explain….”
The great fruit picking con – “Pick For Britain“
My partner and I have been applying for jobs picking fruit and vegetables at local farms throughout the months of April and May, during this time we have received just a single notification of a possible role, on a farm around two hours drive away from our house.
There were more strings attached to this job than Pinocchio began his life with, we would need to:
. sign a six month contract,
. agree to share a small caravan with up to 5 strangers,
. agree not to have access to our cars
. bring our own sleeping bags and pillows,
. pay for our own electricity,
. agree to having £57.40 per week deducted from each of our wages, for ‘accommodation’.
(For a full account of our experiences seeking fruit picking employment, please read Let us Pick Fruit, we also had some input into the At Home With the Brexit Party video which featured Nigel Faraga, Rupert Lowe and Gawain Towler)
Since writing about our attempts to find work on a farm, and having the article published on the Brexit Party web site, we have received a huge number of messages from people across the UK who have lived through the exact same, extremely frustrating couple of months that we have,
– countless job applications ignored or rejected,
– yet throughout, constant headlines appearing in newspapers, and on TV news programs:“farmers are worried, lazy Brits don’t want to pick fruit”.
Something was not right, this just “didn’t add up”.
It had been very obvious from the start that the whole process of employing workers on farms was based on the assumption that you would be either Bulgarian or Romanian, and travelling to the UK, staying here for around six months.
There were directions to Facebook pages in Romanian, some of the jobs even specified that the applicant ‘must be fluent in either Bulgarian or Romanian”.
Then we came across an article in a Kent online newspaper Why Are Aspiring Fruit Pickers Being Turned Away.
The author, Sophie Bird, describes how 6000 UK residents had applied for around 700 jobs at a farm called ‘Clock House’, but at that point in time, none had been taken on.
All 6000 had been refused/ignored.
Our suspicions were confirmed, Brits are most definitely not ‘too lazy to pick fruit’.
More evidence quickly followed.
A strawberry farmer in Herefordshire placed a Facebook advert and got 2,500 replies, a family run farm in North Yorkshire, Oldroyd and Sons advertised for 12 vacancies, and received 600 replies.
It’s quite clear that farms up and down the UK are being completely overwhelmed with applications from locals wanting help harvest fruit and vegetables.
However the farm owners in Kent openly admitted they were waiting to see how many Eastern Europeans they could get over to the UK, before they would even consider hiring anyone local.
The reason offered for adopting this policy was that Romanians and Bulgarians have “the right skills and abilities”, ergo, local Brits do not.
Exactly what complex skills and abilities do you need to pick apples? Or any other fruit?
I have personally fruit picked for several Summers, albeit quite a long time ago.
I picked everything from strawberries to gooseberries, farming methods may have changed slightly since, but at that time the ‘skills required’ were definitely very minimal.
Other farmers have said that British workers are ‘too slow’.
Obviously if they haven’t picked before they may well be slower initially than people who have done the work for years. However I would imagine they would very quickly reach the required speeds, if given the opportunity to do so.
Unless of course being born and/or raised in Eastern Europe somehow makes you a better/quicker fruit picker than being raised in the UK.
Almost certainly the real reason the owners of the farm in question are desperate to acquire their usual Eastern European workforce,
– is that they have caravans on the site, perhaps sufficient to accommodate all 700 workers.
Perhaps understandable that they would much like to have £57.40 a week per person “rolling in” (the legal maximum which they are allowed to charge, the sum which most farms therefore do charge), by having an entirely “living on site”, essentially captive, Eastern European work force,
– multiply this by 700 people… it comes to just over £40,000 a week.
It’s still the hay fever season, a sum like this is ‘not to be sneezed at’.
As Del Boy Trotter might opine, “Lovely jubbly”.
‘Lovely jubbly’ for the farm owner(s), not so much for people all over the UK, who have been completely wasting their time, applying for jobs that in all probability they have zero chance of ever getting.
Not just the farm owners, recruitment agencies are also openly admitting that priority will be given to Eastern European workers over those who live locally.
Perhaps a handful of locals will eventually be taken on, if, and only if, it transpires that aren’t going to be sufficient Eastern European nationals travelling to the UK to fill all roles.
(However given the UK government is doing all it can to assist the usual mass influx of people from Eastern Europe to come over, by exempting them from quarantine rules,
– quite likely none of the, more than 6000 local residents who have applied to work at Clock House farm will end up getting work.
Thanks to the pointless ‘Pick For Britain” campaign, this number may well end up being nearer 10,000. More of this below).
Surely this is nothing short of blatant discrimination, against local residents, and in favour of foreign workers?
If it’s not illegal then it should be. It is without question a national disgrace.
There is plenty of evidence that this is being replicated all over the country.
Rather than address this clear injustice, our government has come up with a new campaign, endorsed by Prince Charles, ‘Pick For Britain’,
– a campaign which realistically can only make the current situation even worse.
The purpose of this campaign is to encourage even more Brits to waste their time applying for supposed job vacancies which, if sufficient Eastern European workers come over to the UK, simply won’t exist.
The many thousands that have already applied to individual fruit and vegetable farms, is symptomatic of the growing number of people across the UK who are becoming increasingly desperate for work,
– mounting bills and mortgages to pay, but either living on reduced wages, or no wages.
– very often they have no income at all as they wait for benefit payments to commence,
“Pick For Britain” is simply giving people desperate for work an entirely false hope of gaining employment on a farm,
– a point I made in the Michael Crick Report, which appears in the Briefings on the Mail Plus site.
Disgustingly, at the very same time that it is pushing this new campaign, the UK government is doing all it can to ensure that it fails,
– by helping Eastern Europeans to fly over, without quarantine, and to fill all the vacancies before Brits are even considered for them.
Pick For Britain is the ultimate “tick box exercise”, “purely for show”.
There are no metrics for the campaign, DEFRA admit that there is no definitive way of measuring its success… or failure across the UK.
Most likely this is a ‘deliberate omission’.
It is very telling indeed that no attempt will be made by those running the campaign to work out how many Brits manage to gain employment on fruit and veg farms this year, as compared with last year, or any year before.
– because the answer to the question “how many local Brits have been employed picking fruit and vegetables on UK farms?”
– is in danger of ending up being the same as it has been in past years… “hardly any”.
On some farms it was just 1% in 2019.
Once again this will then be attributed to “Lazy Brits don’t want to pick fruit”, when nothing could be further from the truth.
The combination of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic is providing the opportunity to change the way that we run this country,
– we must become as close to self sufficient in all areas as we can, including feeding ourselves.
We really can Build a Better Britain.
Morrisons recent championing of British supply chains, with their Buy British campaign, has proven that given a chance, the public will strongly back British farmers.
Our farmers will be looking to the public to back them once again when a UK – USA trade deal is negotiated, as discussed in the article Stand Up For British Farmers Against US Invasion of Chlorinated Chicken,
– we absolutely should do this, but in return for the support of the public, our farmers must now change the way they have been operating, and enthusiastically back British workers, with the help of our government and our supermarkets.
Instead of running completely pointless campaigns like ‘Pick For Britain’,
– the UK government needs to work with our farmers to make it financially viable for them to take local workers on, if necessary compensate them for lost caravan income.
ALL our supermarkets should be running ‘Buy British’ campaigns, and releasing some of the pressure that they have placed on farmers to produce fruit and vegetables at the lowest possible price,
– if employing local workers means a few pence extra on a punnet of strawberries in our shops,
– so be it.
We are facing potentially the worst recession in 300 years,
– there has never been a more important time to both “Buy British”, and “Employ British”.
Most people voted for Brexit because they knew it would provide us with the opportunity to make huge changes, and felt that they were badly needed,
– the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated exactly what it is really important in our lives, and where we need to start work on these.
It’s time for all of us to put our past differences aside,
– time to come together, and to “Build a Better Britain”.
(Political Commentator and Former Brexit Party Deputy Campaign Manager)
Links to articles referenced in the above text:
1) ”Let Us Pick Fruit”: https://www.thebrexitparty.org/let-us-pick-fruit/
2) “Why are aspiring fruit pickers being turned away?” : https://www.kentonline.co.uk/maidstone/news/amp/why-are-aspiring-fruit-pickers-being-turned-away-227683/
3) Morrisons “Buy British” campaign : https://www.nfuonline.com/sectors/food-chain/food-chain-news/buying-british-pays-off-as-local-sourcing-drives-morrisons-17-profit-rise/
5) “At Home With the Brexit Party – Episode 2” : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnJINEvXfyc