Sunday, 15 October 2017

We could "grow more food" but who is going to do the work?


The Tory transport minister Chris Grayling has come up with a fantastic solution to the "no deal" Brexit chaos the Tories are actively planning to inflict on the UK economy.

A "no deal" Tory Brexit would mean import and export tariffs on a huge range of items, including food products. This wouldn't just mean taxes on food imported from the EU, it would mean taxes on food from all of the countries the EU has negotiated trade deals with too. This is because the UK would not just be crashing out of the Single Market in a "no deal" scenario, the country would also be crashing out of every trade deal the UK has joined through the EU over the last four decades.

The UK imports almost 45% of the food we eat. Nearly 80% of these food imports come from EU states, and the vast majority of the rest comes from countries that Britain has trade deals with that have been negotiated through the EU.

Chris Grayling's glib and simplistic solution to the problem of import tariffs on food products is "we'll grow more food here".

Aside from the fact that it's impossible to grow a lot of products in the British climate that British consumers now take for granted on their supermarket shelves, and the fact that it would cost £billions in investment in stuff like greenhouses, machinery, polytunnels, etc to increase the productivity of the UK agricultural industry so dramatically, there's also the glaring question of who is going to do the work?

Brexit hasn't even happened yet, but 2017 saw a 20% shortfall in seasonal migrant agricultural labour. Once a ruinous Tory "no deal" Brexit is launched, the shortfall is certain to grow dramatically, as migrant workers from the EU would lose their right to free movement, and end up facing a bureaucratic nightmare as the massively over-stretched Tory government try to cobble together a new set of immigration rules overnight.

In order to massively increase domestic agriculture output at the same time as the agricultural sector is suffering a massive labour shortfall because Brexit is chasing away a huge percentage of seasonal migrant workers, someone else would obviously have to do the work.

So where are the Tories going to find the labour supply to do all of this agricultural work?

Here are a few ideas based on previous Tory policies and proposals by Tory MPs:

One obvious source of agricultural workers would be to force jobless people to go out picking fruit and vegetables in return for no wages (instead of retraining or searching for actual paid employment). The Tories have demonstrated time and again that they believe that the state has the right to confiscate the labour of the individual through their use of numerous exploitative and economically damaging "Workfare" forced labour schemes.

Another solution would be to run with the Tory MP Philip Davies' proposal that disabled people don't deserve to be paid the minimum wage. Of course a workforce of severely sick and disabled people on wages of just a few quid an hour is hardly likely to be the most efficient workforce in the world, what with their physical limitations, their reluctance to work hard for below minimum wage pay, and their increased likelihood of falling ill or dying on the job, but there are millions of sick and disabled people for whom the Tory government have displayed absolute contempt (with their arbitrary disability welfare cuts, their cuts to statutory sick pay, their confiscation of mobility vehicles, their deliberated discrimination against people with mental health conditions, and their dehumanising disability denial factories). Who cares if sick and disabled people would make an inefficient workforce who keep dying on the job? It's not hard to imagine certain Tory ministers seeing the appalling death toll as a cost benefit because more dead disabled people would mean fewer mouths to feed on Brexit Britain's dramatically diminished food supplies.

Another solution would be work with the proposal made by the unelected peer Michael Bichard that pensioners should be forced to work for their pensions in order to avoid being "a negative burden on society". Of course herding elderly people into the fields to do back-breaking agricultural work would have the same problems of inefficiency and a very high labour force death rate, but there would be some element of poetic justice given that the economic chaos of a "no deal" Tory Brexit would have been enabled by millions of pensioners flocking to the polling stations to give the hard-right fringe of the Tory party the green light to just make Brexit up as they go along.

You wouldn't put it beyond the most cruel and compassionless Tories like Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Philip Davies and Priti Patel to force sick, disabled, and elderly people to do backbreaking agricultural labour for little pay, or no wages at all, but in all seriousness, the most likely supply of agricultural labour will come from the wave of unemployment triggered by the "no deal" Brexit meltdown.

"No deal" would mean chaos and mass redundancies in a wide range of industries, especially in the manufacturing, tourism, aviation, the financial sector, and the export/import industries. And without the right to freedom of movement, looking for jobs in the same industries elsewhere in Europe would be out of the question. So Chris Grayling's "no deal" Brexit dream is for Britain do downgrade and deskill down to a more rudimentary agrarian economy, with former pilots, travel agents, production line managers, financial analysts, logistics experts, and the like sent out into the fields to pick cauliflowers for crap pay so that the country doesn't starve.

Still, Brexiteer Tory politicians and the mercenary hacks shilling for hard-right billionaire propaganda barons like Jonathan Harmsworth, Richard Desmond, the Barclay brothers and Rupert Murdoch will still keep pushing as hard as they can for their fantasy of a nuclear "no deal" Brexit, because there's no way they're going to be the ones who are going to end up living in huts 
in the back end of nowhere and doing backbreaking cabbage-picking work for the glory of Brexit Britain is there


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