Conservatives' anti-migrant ideology sees food rot in British fields amid a cost-of-living crisis – Scotsman comment

NFU says the UK Government needs to ‘move away from anti-migration politics and rhetoric to make good policy’

In the former Soviet Union, any scientist foolish enough to discover anything which conflicted with communist ideology would soon also discover that blind obedience to the party was expected to be absolute. Nothing else, not even the truth, mattered.

Decades of such delusional thinking contributed to the collapse of communism, providing an object lesson in the need for political leaders to engage with reality. Speaking at a conference held by the “National Conservatism” project, a name with rather alarming historical echoes, Home Secretary Suella Braverman stressed the need to bring down levels of immigration and said: “There is no good reason why we can't train up enough HGV drivers, butchers or fruit pickers.”

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This may go down well in certain quarters. However, the reaction from the farming community was one that Braverman cannot ignore. Iain Brown, a soft fruit and vegetable grower from Fife and horticulture chair of the National Farmers’ Union Scotland, said her remarks displayed a “significant degree of naivety over the reality of the current situation”.

The end to freedom of movement for EU workers after Brexit, the Covid pandemic, and a flawed new UK migrant workers’ visa scheme had resulted in “increased costs and some crop losses in Scotland”, he said. And attempts to employ local people to bring in the harvest had not produced anything like the necessary numbers.

The economy may be struggling, but unemployment rates are still relatively low. In this situation, low-paid, seasonal work is unlikely to be popular, particularly as taking it can cause problems with benefit payments because of a lack of flexibility in the system.

Brown spelt out the reality the UK Government must face: “We need migrants to get the food that is grown on our farms onto our plates, and not rotting in our fields. We need the government to move away from anti-migration politics and rhetoric to make good policy.”

Brexit was supposed to mean “taking back control” of the UK’s borders, but surely that didn’t mean stopping everyone from coming in, including workers we desperately need. Especially amid a cost-of-living crisis, adopting a policy that means food will literally rot in the fields is an act of Soviet-style stupidity, driven by an ideology that has little to do with traditional Conservatism. It’s past time for this nonsense to end.



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