Environment minister wants people on furlough to get 'a second job' picking fruit, in bizarre 'save British harvest' speech

Sirena Bergman@SirenaBergman
Monday 27 April 2020 07:15
news
(AP)

George Eustice, the environment secretary, appeared during yesterday's coronavirus briefing to tell pepole who have been furloughed from their job that they may as well start fruitpicking.

Why?

Because we're close to harvest and there just aren't enough migrant workers here to get us through the season.

Funny that the Tories didn't seem that worried about this when they were pushing through legislation which deemed them "unskilled" and made it harder for them to work in the UK at all. But no matter, no one mention Brexit or "points-based systems" because we can blame it all on coronavirus now.

Eustice said:

We're also acutely aware that we're about to start the British season in fresh produce – in soft fruits, in salads...

We estimate that only a third of the migrant labour that would normally come to the UK is here and was probably here before lockdown and we are working with the industry to try and find an approach that will encourage those millions of furloughed workers in some cases to consider taking a second job helping get the harvest in in June.

According to the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), travel restrictions and illness could leave a shortage of up to 80,000 agricultural workers this year, which has led farmers to fly workers over from overseas in order to help.

But people were confused by the suggestion, wondering whether Eustice was somehow hinting that people wouldn't have a choice in the matter.

And many pointed out the great Brexit irony of it all.

Others pointed out the curious timing of it all.

And suggested Eustice et al may want to lead by example.

More than 9 million workers are expected to be put on furlough, meaning the government scheme will cover up to 80 per cent of their salary and they are prevented from working.

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