The food industry’s Brexit complaint

UK Food Industry Warns That Wages Will Rise Post-Brexit

56 thoughts on “The food industry’s Brexit complaint”

  1. The Inimitable Steve

    Yarp. Special pleading employers demanding cheap foreign labour so they don’t have to pay half-decent salaries to British natives, while passing off the externalities of housing benefit, healthcare, education for their kiddies and so on to the mug taxpayer.

    It’s a scam as old as the Windrush.

    Used to annoy the fuck out of me back in the 90’s when bus companies and the like claimed they couldn’t find local “skilled labour” in unemployment blackspots like Glasgow and Liverpool. Srsly. We’re supposed to believe the locals can’t stay off the Buckfast and/or Brookside omnibuses long enough to drive a vehicle.

    I visited a fish processing factory once, in one of those miserable drug-blighted harbour towns that used to be prosperous before the Common Fisheries Policy. Lots of Johnny and Johnella Foreigner types working the floor there. Locals mostly on the dole.

    The most egregious immigration scam is the Big Issue. When was the last time you saw a British man selling the Big Issue? We’re literally paying foreigners to beg on our streets.

    At the same time, we’re informed we’re supposed to be a super-duper 21st century knowledge economy where everybody makes a living writing iPhone apps or something. Somebody tell the kids in Toxteth or Easterhouse.

  2. The Inimitable Steve

    Oh, and while I’m moaning about immigration: anybody remember when farmers used to pay schoolkids to help bring in the crop?

    What was wrong with that? Might help them lose a bit of weight and learn about work at the same time.

  3. …where everybody makes a living writing iPhone apps or something. Somebody tell the kids in Toxteth or Easterhouse.

    Problem is, to write software you first need to be able to read and write “ordinary”, and many, if not most of these kids, after 12/14 years incarceration in the state’s indoctrination farms appear incapable of so doing.

  4. TIS: “Oh, and while I’m moaning about immigration: anybody remember when farmers used to pay schoolkids to help bring in the crop?”

    And hop-picking in Kent was a much desired holiday!

  5. The Inimitable Steve

    Pogo – Yes. And even if our education system wasn’t a clown show, half the population are still below average intelligence.

    Theo’s old schoolchum Edwards probably wasn’t destined to become a rocket surgeon, and the kids I knew who tried to get high off orange highlighter pens probably aren’t senior VP’s at Microsoft these days.

    Since we’re not allowed to institute the Hunger Games, we need something useful for our less intellemallectual people to do. Paying them to watch Jeremy Kyle while we also pay foreign chavs to do “the jobs British people won’t do” is a clownworld solution.

  6. The Inimitable Steve

    JuliaM – Yes! And side note: dunno why Bufton Tufton types always default to Bring Back National Service – which was a pointless waste of time even the first time around – when giving kids a nice rural holiday/work experience would achieve much the same ends while producing something of value.

    Give peas a chance.

  7. Give Peas a chance

    …which made me think of this ad from Birds Eye.

    It simply wouldn’t work today because nobody knows that a pod is anything other than some sci-fi vehicle for sinister intergalactic slime.

  8. Give peas a chance

    I’m still wondering when they’ll get around to cleaning up the railway bridge that message is painted on that crosses the M25. Gives me a giggle every time I see it

  9. BTW having problems commented at forbes.

    Regarding Trump, his appointments and the anguish they are causing, the word you are looking for isn’t schadenfreude it’s Schadenboner (or better ̈ )

  10. Er, didn’t the Remnants tell us it’s both racist and economically ignorant to claim that immigration drives down wages? But now the Remnants are saying Brexit’s a disaster because it’ll drive up wages? And they’re left-wing, so they don’t want wages to rise?

    Honestly, how do they keep up with all these memos?

  11. Oh, and while I’m moaning about immigration: anybody remember when farmers used to pay schoolkids to help bring in the crop?

    Potatoes, carrots, lettuce, spring onions, broccoli, cabbages, sprouts, cauliflower: I think I’ve both planted and picked all of them.

  12. “anybody remember when farmers used to pay schoolkids to help bring in the crop”

    So lets see, health and safety, minimum wage, risk of being sued by Johnny’s mum after Johnny climbs on the potato harvester, falls in and gets turned into goulash, etc etc. Plus the fact that most harvesting is done by machinery now, of a particularly technological nature. Farm work is more about driving a satellite controlled £250k machine these days than wielding a pitchfork. Its not for the urban chav scum morons, then again what is?

  13. Yes, well pointed out S2. I don’t think they worry about any of it making sense, so long as they feel virtuous.

  14. > Farm work is more about driving a satellite controlled £250k machine these days

    Nope. If that were the case, we wouldn’t need to recruit illiterate farm-hands from the Ukraine. Some farming can use fancy automated combine harvesters: e.g. if you live in Norfolk and have large flat fields of wheat or corn. But picking asparagus or raspberries is still done by hand; that’s why most farms in the UK use foreign labourers.

  15. Brexit is going to cause warts on puppies.

    I doubt the “cheap foreign labour” meme. In the U.S., foreign labor is valued because they are reliable, hard working, and drama free.

    The U.S. has choked business for 40 years with EEOC, NLRB, OSHA, EPA, etc. Employing aliens reduces impact of federal regulation. The U.S. worker carries the threat of federal intervention, where it has no damn business.

    If Trump wants to keep Ford in the U.S., he should get the government off its back. Threatening tariffs on re-imports is stupid. Just MORE government intrusion, which is the problem in the first place.

  16. My first job picking raspberries near Dundee showed me that it was possible to be a functioning alcoholic – ie to be able to work actually well and convincingly well, while still being seriously pissed from the night before. It has carried me well over decades into the present day.

  17. Witchsmeller Pursuivant

    Much of the Left will not accept that immigration forces down wages because (a) many of them are economically illiterate and (b) it is politically inconvenient for them to accept this fact. They’re also unable to accept that immigration has had any effect on property rental prices for the same reasons. This sizeable part of the Left is also happy to have the NHS staffed by medical staff trained by poorer countries and sucked in to the UK by higher wages, leaving the poorer countries without the medics that they paid to educate.

    I’m ploughing a lonely furrow as a Left-leaning Libertarian.

  18. Bloke in North Dorset


    “The U.S. has choked business for 40 years with EEOC, NLRB, OSHA, EPA, etc”

    Having followed the excellent Coyote blog for a number of years and read some of his stories I’m surprised anything get done in the USA, especially California – some of their employment protection laws are mental.

  19. Steve, I’ve known several of the big issue sellers in Walsall for many years. I’ve known most of the big issue sellers we’ve had in the past decade or so – they used to come to my office to buy it!
    Most of them British, some of them doing it for several years. We had a couple of lads who were not British – one was French, one American. Both lived here much of their lives.
    There really aren’t as many overseas sellers as people believe.

  20. Must vary by area. I’ve not seen a British BI vendor in yonks. Round my way, they’re almost always Romanian.

    To be fair, the whole point of the Big Issue is that what they’re doing is not begging. Then to be fair again, that laudable aim has been undermined by the attitude that you should buy it for moral reasons, and by some vendors asking for spare change even when you don’t buy the magazine.

    Either way, yes, importing people to sell it seems at best counterproductive. It’s not supposed to be a growth industry.

  21. What pisses me off about “Big Issue” is that the guy who founded it is now a millionnaire as a result, having started with a loan from Gordon Roddick (who is genuine, even if naive and economically illiterate) and fills the magazine with lefty capitalist-bashing while ripping people off far more than the average capitalist.
    I went through a phase of offering the guys a quid not to buy it until I found an immigrant (deducible from her poor English) who commuted into my town in relatively clothing obsctructing the entrance to my local supermarket. There comes a time to day “No”

  22. Yes, might be regional. I pass through Central London (well, look a the shape of the island – if Britain was a person London would be the anus) quite often, and I’d say about half the sellers are clearly foreign, with Roma appearing prominent.

  23. Those Roma are industrious when it comes to organised ‘spare a quid gov’-ing.

    I went for a holiday to the very top bit of Norway a few years ago – technically within the artic circle, and the first thing I saw when getting out of the cab were the Roma beggars. Sitting down outside in minus 10 degrees weather.

    Honest mistake I should think. It’s fairly easy to take a wrong turn and end up in troll country isn’t it?

  24. While it’s nice to fantasize about the 50% below average going back to the harvests I’m not sure how this would actually work in practice.

    One problem is that, at least in places I’ve spent time, most are now in cities. Thanks to sprawl often times they are a 2+ hour drive from the nearest farm. Those transportation costs have to come from somewhere. It’s not like the intercity rail system still exists so we can’t just spring for a train ticket like we did a century ago. While that system could come back if we banned private automobiles and airplanes no sane person is willing to give this option serious thought.

    Anyone have a solution?

  25. Start trimming welfare and let the market take its course?

    No reason someone without a job should be getting enough housing benefit to live off it long-term in a city when there’s cheaper digs in the sticks.

  26. Cynic,

    I highly doubt these people will have any financial resources to cover the moving costs themselves. Are you willing to supply a moving benefit with the money saved on welfare?

  27. I managed to do it. Moved halfway down the country after uni with no help from parents or the State. Remember, England just isn’t very big.

    They shouldn’t have that much stuff to shift anyway, living on welfare. And if they do, they can sell it.

    Been there, seen it, done it, made a success of it.

  28. The argument about stuff to shift doesn’t really work, at least in the US. What do you think happens to the money received from selling SNAP? Selling the stuff doesn’t bring in much money here. There just isn’t a huge market for used goods anymore. I miss being able to double my monthly income with one good day at a flea market but, alas, those days are long gone.

    I also don’t see the motivation for people on the dole to go to the fields. Yes, they’ve moved to the country taking advantage or cheaper costs of living. Does the UK only look at annual income for benefit amounts? Here we do it on a monthly basis so if someone earns too much during a two week harvest they could lose benefits for the entire year. The poverty traps in welfare are a huge, normally ignored, problem in the US.

  29. Not having much stuff to shift does work here, from personal experience. I hired a man with a van to take me and everything I owned to my new home. The van had a lot of empty space left! It didn’t break the bank. Probably cheaper than a taxi.

    As for motivation, I worked for barely more than minimum wage before and after said move. The motivation was working my way up to something better. Couldn’t see how to do that where I was.

    I cut my cloth accordingly and didn’t claim any benefits.

    So yes, everyone can come up with reasons why it can’t be done. I know firsthand it can. You don’t mean it that way, but telling us working class oiks it can’t be done is actually quite patronising.

    I count as middle class these days, of course.

  30. Bloke in North Dorset

    Wasn’t original point of BI to give the sellers a route back to work and they would only do a short time? There’s one in Blandford who’s been in the same spot for about 6 years.

    Similarly there’s a guy who stands at the west exit of a Waterloo station who’s also been there a lot of years. Nice cheery chap and I’ve often paid him the price of BI without taking one.

  31. Liberal Yank,

    Picking vegetables isn’t the kind of job you do 9-to-5 while living in a suburban home. Look at how farms do it today; they bring in a dozen labourers, have them all live in a caravan (trailer) for a few months, then at the end of the season they go back home to their families. Here they go back to Poland / Lithuania / Ukraine; on your side of the pond they go back to Mexico. (In theory at least.)

    You’re right that most of our unemployed live in cities: but there’s no reason why they should stay there if there are no jobs for them.

  32. If immigration reduces wages, then surely the corollary that emigration increases wages should also be true. Let’s study places that have had notable levels of emigration – Liverpool and Glasgow in the ’80s, Greece and Romania currently. Rising wage levels – I don’t think so.
    Migration for work is a massive human success story. Imv of course.

  33. My equivalent of a trailer was lodging in one room of someone else’s house. Did that for several years.

    Didn’t need or expect an entire dwelling to myself.

    So you can imagine how little sympathy I have for our whiners about the “bedroom tax”.

  34. I keep asking the ‘greens’ if I can come live with them in CA since solar panels aren’t the solution for me. I haven’t had any takers yet.


    Did you know the person you lodged with before or did you show up and find the place after getting there?

  35. Hi LY

    No, I didn’t know the owner prior to moving in. I found them through an advert and met them once to agree the move, that was it.

    Looking after the pet, doing some gardening and letting him in when he’d gone out on a major late night drinking spree without his keys helped to keep the rent down.

    The first few weeks were a bit weird, as I didn’t know anyone locally to start with.

    Where I’m from originally is one of the more lefty, backward and inevitably less well-off parts of England, so “getting on yer bike” had to happen.

  36. Slightly OT but I reckon if we had the referendum again tomorrow there’s no doubt in my mind it would go the other way. Tight call but I reckon the last couple of by elections show that Labour would be better opposing it. 66% of their voters voted to remain and they’ll lose them to the lib dems if they don’t.

    It’s becoming pretty clear that we’ve essentially voted to be poorer. It’s becoming like a bizarre religious cult now to believe that leaving is a good idea

  37. Cynic,

    Thanks to transit subsidies bikes aren’t as common among our urban poor as one might expect. Over here the option would be to hoof it.

    We also have a higher proportion of black people, especially considering those on welfare. How many rooms for let do you expect there to be in lily-white farm towns for a haggard black man who has just walked hundreds of miles? Based on the small town my mom’s side of the family is from, my guess is not many.

    To expand on the sell your stuff idea we have to consider changes to the supply and demand curves, in addition to the current market. As I already stated the current resale market is limited. The demand is those who are either on welfare or those close to it. Turn the welfare recipient portion of demand into supply and the already low prices will plummet even more. What gets 10¢ on the dollar today could see a drop to 1¢.

    My knowledge of resale markets is based on first hand experience in the marketplaces frequented by re-sellers. Poor choices in employees, the autism makes me a bad judge of character, turned what should have been a solid tee-shirt business into 120 hour work weeks, leading to pneumonia. Before I decided to expand and go legitimate I was easily able to double my salary simple flipping bad margin shirts at flea markets in a dozen good weekends. No, I never sold bootlegs. If not for my weakness on the HR end the name Giant Yellow Canary would be at least as well know as Custom Ink is today.

  38. I wasn’t proposing selling stuff to make significant amounts of money. I meant so they wouldn’t have the trouble and expense of moving it to the new location. Just being practical. I wasn’t clear, that’s on me.

    Likewise the “on yer bike” comment. I wasn’t actually talking about bikes at all! It’s a reference to something one Britain’s better politicians, Norman Tebbit, is supposed to have said (source – Wikipedia):

    In the aftermath of the 1981 riots in Handsworth and Brixton, Tebbit responded to a suggestion by the Young Conservative National Chairman, Iain Picton that rioting was the natural reaction to unemployment:

    “I grew up in the ’30s with an unemployed father. He didn’t riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking till he found it.”

    As a result, Tebbit is often misquoted as having directly told the unemployed to “get on your bike”, and he was popularly referred to as ‘Onyerbike’ for some considerable time afterwards.

    People like me get what he meant. Lefties misquote it.

    I’m happy to have this conversation, so long as it doesn’t descend further into “what about the poor minorities?” territory. That’s just deflection. Someone’s race is neither a valid excuse nor a reason for not making a go of their life and taking responsibility. It’s actually kinda racist to suggest it is.

  39. I’m not trying to deflect. A few years ago, just after the ex left-good riddance, I made the mistake of passing on a wonderful black woman because of previous experiences, specifically in my Mom’s hometown. She ended up dating a co-worker and they are very happy with her being almost everything I could wish for. To this day, I haven’t forgiven myself for succumbing to that bit of racism. In America being black is still a real handicap in life in far too much of the nation. Unfortunately I have been part of that problem.

    Thank you for explaining the bicycle quote. It is something, as an American, I most likely would have never been exposed to otherwise.

  40. It’s becoming pretty clear that we’ve essentially voted to be poorer.

    There will be transition effects and a degree of instability. However, a lot of this is fuss and nonsense kicked up by the remainiacs. To mangle a Krugman quote, “in the long term, productivity is almost everything.” And we will do better if we manage to unshackle ourselves from the plethora and sheer mass of EU bureaucracy. Not necessarily much better, because we have bureaucrats too, although we can always hope. But measurably better.

    It’s becoming like a bizarre religious cult now to believe that leaving is a good idea

    But the “ever closer integration” crowd have always been a bizarre Gramscian cult.

  41. @LY

    We’ve drifted a little far off the point of Timmy’s OP, as that was specifically about the UK post-Brexit. Hopefully my experiences show you that the logistics of moving light here really aren’t as big a deal as some would try to convince you.

    (the place farthest from the sea – and incidentally not all that far from where I grew up – is only 70 miles from the coast)

    That is some liberal guilt you are carrying around there. Everyone has subconscious preferences, I wouldn’t beat yourself up over it. If I were black, I wouldn’t want my natural, healthy skin colour to be described as a handicap. If I were black.

  42. @ Surreptitious Evil

    “And we will do better if we manage to unshackle ourselves from the plethora and sheer mass of EU bureaucracy. Not necessarily much better, because we have bureaucrats too, although we can always hope. But measurably better.”


  43. Proof?

    Not proof as such, but these papers might suggest reasons:

    Does free trade result in higher GDP per capita? An international perspective

    “Abstract: The theory of comparative advantage suggests that free trade increases overall world production of goods and services and it is a positive sum game in which all participating countries realise economic gains. The evaluation of data from a number of countries in this study demonstrates a strong correlation between a country’s level of trade freedom (according to its Trade Freedom Index) and its GDP per capita. There are exceptions to this trend in countries that have experienced social or political unrest. This is consistent with research into the relationship between economic freedom and GDP growth which suggest that levels of economic freedom (of which trade freedom is a component) in a country impact upon growth subject to social, economic or political climate in these countries.”

    The Impact of Economic Freedom on Per Capita Real GDP: A Study of OECD Nations

    “Abstract. This study of the impact of economic freedom on per capita real GDP among OECD nations over the 2002-2006 period, with each OECD nation during this time frame being treated as a de facto “economic region” within the OECD, finds strong initial support for the hypothesis proffered here, namely, the higher the degree of economic freedom, the higher the level of economic activity and hence the higher the per capita real GDP level. In particular, the per capita real GDP level in each of the nations (regions) in existence as OECD members (except Iceland) over the study period is shown, using fixed-effects PLS estimations, to be an increasing function of business freedom, freedom from corruption, investment freedom, monetary freedom, government size freedom, trade freedom, and property rights freedom. By contrast, these preliminary estimations find that labor freedom, financial freedom, and fiscal freedom do not exercise a statistically significant impact on per capita real GDP (income). “

  44. KJ – “Slightly OT but I reckon if we had the referendum again tomorrow there’s no doubt in my mind it would go the other way.”

    A different perspective:

    The most heartening poll of the post-Brexit era was published by YouGov last week. It shows that 68 per cent of people want Britain to crack on with Brexit. That’s a pretty clear majority in favour of enacting the June referendum result. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of Leave voters who responded to the poll said we should get on with leaving the EU, but strikingly so did around half of Remain respondents.

    Read the rest of it rather than simply my quote.

    KJ – “It’s becoming pretty clear that we’ve essentially voted to be poorer. It’s becoming like a bizarre religious cult now to believe that leaving is a good idea.

    Oh dear…..

  45. Cynic,

    We did drift off topic. Having never been to the UK I am stuck using what I know as a basis. From there I have to ask questions.

    That mistake is not the biggest I’ve made in my life by far. The point is I understand a problem we would have in the US.

  46. Late back to this because weekend. But thought this was worth adding to Yank’s and Cynic’s discussion.

    I agree with Kevin Williamson:

    The problem is that the desire to enact punitive policies often runs counter to the necessity of enacting effective policies. For example, it may be the case that people should be more enterprising and more willing to take on the risk and discomfort of relocating to a new city when there is no satisfactory work to be found where one is. But that is not how (some) people are. If we want to make policies based on how things and people and institutions are rather than based on how we think they should be — which is to say, if we wish to address reality rather than a set of metaphysical preferences shared by the policymaking elite — then punitive measures are only relevant to the extent that they cause actual changes in behavior. When it comes to getting people off of unemployment and into a job, it may be the case that punishing malingering is less effective than, say, helping them with relocation costs. Paying somebody $2,500 to move from Abernathy, Texas, to Tulsa, Okla., for a new job is in almost every way preferable to paying them $8,000 to sit on their asses in Abernathy and do nothing — except that it deprives us of punitive opportunities.

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