It has been a gloomy week on the sunlit uplands of sovereign Britain, where trade and vaccine squabbles with the EU are threatening to overwhelm our nation’s jab euphoria.
Exactly what might have made the Europeans so suspicious of the lie-telling, law-breaking, flag-hugging UK will remain a mystery, but while Boris Johnson and David Frost search for an answer, a worrying new seam of post-Brexit danger is opening up. It lies in a shortage of EU workers to do some of the jobs Brits don’t seem to fancy.
More than 1.3million foreign workers are said to have left Britain between July 2019 and September 2020, with 700,000 of them going from London alone. Clearly, the pandemic is a huge factor, but many will have departed because of fears about qualifying for settled status or just because they don’t feel like they belong in Brexit Britain any more (our caring government is doing its best to allay these worries by offering migrants free flights and up to £2,000 resettlement money under the voluntary returns scheme, so long as they do one).
Any piece taken out of a jigsaw leaves a hole. And so it is that the absent EU workers are causing blank space to appear in areas that have been well-publicised already – inside care homes, on building sites and in fruit fields.
But there are gaps in some less familiar places, too. Varfell Farms in Cornwall, Britain’s largest daffodil grower, is leaving millions of bunches of this year’s crop to rot after a recruitment shortfall. “We need more pickers or we’ve got to find something else to farm,” said owner Alex Newey. “We’re not going to put millions of pounds’ worth of bulbs in the ground just to watch them flower and wither.”
If Britons can not be attracted to work by the thought of a host of golden daffodils, fluttering and dancing in the breeze, then what chance of getting them to turn up to gaze upon a host of chickens’ fluttering bumholes? Slim, as it turns out, which is why chicken sexing has been added to a list of occupations for which foreigners can qualify for a skilled worker visa.
The hours must fly by on a job that entails assessing the anuses of chicks to determine whether they are male or female. And while there can be no doubt that a long-term goal of this government has to be ensuring that the anal vents of British chicks are squeezed open by British hands for a good look by a pair of British eyes, we’re willing to let migrants check the arses for a while – so long as they have three years’ experience and a guaranteed salary of £25,600 a year.
Meanwhile, as nightclubs start to make plans to reopen, the exodus of overseas workers means there’s also an absence of bouncers. The UK Door Security Association claims that more than half of positions may not be filled.
“When we go back on 21 June every operator in our field, every festival, nightclub, bar, restaurant, theatre, every event has been gagging to get back on track and suddenly everyone is going to say we need security staff,” said London nightclub manager Stuart Glen.
How ironic that in points-based, hostile environment Britain, a lack of foreign workers is going to lead to a shortage of people telling would-be entrants: “Your name’s not down, you’re not coming in.”