UK post brexit

941Source: Groan

Priti Patel claims 8.5 m people could fill workforce gaps created by new immigration plan
Andrew Woodcock, Independent, Feb 19 2020

Priti Patel has been branded “clueless” after claiming that labour shortages caused by her tough new immigration plans could be filled by 8.5m “economically inactive” people in the UK. The home secretary was speaking as sectors from care homes to construction to farming warned that they will face difficulty recruiting enough staff after the points-based system comes into force at the end of the year. But official figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the 8.5m 16 to 64 year olds currently not seeking work include around 2.3m students and 2.1 million long-term sick, as well as more than 1.1m who are retired and 1.9m who are looking after their family or home. Fewer than 1.9m of the total were recorded as wanting a job. The IPPR think tank calculated that Ms Patel’s immigration plans, which replace free movement with a requirement for most migrants to have a job offer worth £25,600 or more, would rule out around 70% of EU workers currently in the country, delivering a “shock” to key sectors of the economy. Those excluded would include 90% of EU nationals in the transport and storage sector, 85% in hotels and restaurants, 66% in health and social care and 59% in construction, the think tank said. Boris Johnson said the changes would mean the UK “welcoming the best and brightest from around the world whilst maintaining full control of our borders.” And Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage hailed them as “a very big step in the right direction.” But Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said they spelt “absolute disaster” for the care sector, which has not been granted an exemption from the minimum pay threshold. And the Federation of Master Builders said closing the door on “low-skill” workers would stand in the way of Mr Johnson achieving his promises of massive infrastructure investment and 1m new homes. Brian Berry, the trade association’s chief executive, said:

It’s simply unrealistic to assume the domestic workforce will fill this gap in the next nine months.

Dame Sara Thornton, the anti-slavery commissioner, warned that the protection of vulnerable people needs to be “front and centre” of the debate on the changes, as people-traffickers “will seek every opportunity to abuse new immigration policies” during a period of significant upheaval in the system. Meanwhile, Ms Patel conceded that her own parents, who set up a chain of newsagents after arriving in the UK in the 1960s, would not have been allowed into the UK under her new rules, though she suggested that they might instead have qualified under arrangements for refugees, having faced persecution in Uganda. Challenged over fears her plans will leave gaps in the workforce, the home secretary told Sky News:

It is about time businesses started to invest in people in this country. We have over 8 million people aged between 16 and 64 that are economically inactive right now. That is 20% of the workforce. It is down to businesses to work well with the government and join us in investing in people, levelling up across the UK so we can have wage growth across the entire country.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, said it was “not credible” for ministers to expect millions of pensioners, students and carers to enter the workforce. she said:

Precarious youth and seasonal visas aren’t the answer either. The government’s plans will make it easier for bad bosses to exploit migrant workers and drive down pay and conditions for everyone.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said:

Priti Patel is clearly clueless about the labour market. Not only has she unveiled an immigration policy that potentially devastates our social care sector, detrimentally impacting on some of the most vulnerable in society, she’s also justifying it by saying that those who are carers, sick or retired should take up these jobs. Yet again, the Tories are putting dogma ahead of the needs of the economy and it’s the vulnerable paying the price.

Lib Dem home affairs spox Christine Jardine said:

Priti Patel’s comment is evidence that this government does not care a jot about people’s lives. Rather than allowing people to travel to the UK and contribute to our economy by working, Priti Patel would rather drag people out of education, out of retirement and out of hospital beds and set them to work.

Social care providers were loudest in their warnings about the blow the new immigration rules would deal to their sector. Migrants make up around 17% of staff in adult social care, 40% in London, and there are currently more than 120,000 unfilled vacancies across the country. The Nuffield Trust warned that Patel’s proposals risked pushing the sector “over the edge,” while Nadra Ahmed from the National Care Association said:

The government is either not listening or closing their eyes to the fact that social care needs to be on the shortage occupation list.

Farmers welcomed changes to increase the number of seasonal workers they can recruit from outside the EU from 2,500 to 10,000 for the coming harvest. But the National Farmers’ Union urged the government to commit to a full scheme for 2021, so growers can recruit the 70,000 seasonal workers needed on fruit, vegetable and flower farms. NFU president Minette Batters said that failure to provide an entry route not only for fruit-pickers, but also packers, meat processors and vets, would “severely impact” on their ability to deliver high-quality, affordable food for the public. And Martin Emmett of the Horticultural Trades Association said that a “significant increase” in numbers of seasonal agricultural worker places would be needed if the industry was to help Mr Johnson deliver his manifesto pledge to plant 75,000 acres of trees a year as part of the UK’s fight against climate change. he said:

The ornamental horticulture sector, along with other sectors, relies upon a seasonal workforce for its essential operations. We stand ready to support government targets on tree planting, import substitution, biosecurity and UK production, but the government needs to support the industry in how the shortfalls in labour are to be fulfilled in 2021 and beyond.

The more dysfunctional the royals are, the more their fans love them
Marina Hyde, Groan, Feb 20 2020

News that Prince Harry and Meghan will cease their royal duties at the end of next month is now in, yet offers no letup in the backbreaking schedule of Windsors-related toss-giving demanded of all UK humans. On the one hand, we are told that all this may turn out to be a mortal blow for the royal family, though my feeling is the mere fact of “Charles III” has the potential to be rather more seismic. On the other hand, we have never seemed to care more about these people. Whatever happened to Prince Charles’s much vaunted plan for a slimmed-down royal family? Over the past fortnight, there has been extensive coverage of the divorce of Peter Phillips, an event that perhaps mildly explains the trashy milk adverts Princess Anne’s son filmed for the Chinese market. One of these showed him as a shill for a state-owned dairy in the grounds of a palace-like stately home, gulping down milk as if his dignity depended on it, adorned by the slogan “British Royal Family Member Peter Phillips”. This generated a content frenzy, including such hilarities as the headline “PRINCESS DIANA’S CHEF SPOTS MAJOR ERROR IN PETER PHILLIPS’ MILK ADVERT.” Then, barely a week after the Phillips divorce news, we were “rocked” on behalf of the Queen by news of “yet more family heartache”, with the divorce of her nephew Viscount Linley and his wife Serena, a pair with the sort of general name recognition you might enjoy in one of the better witness protection programmes.

At first glance, it might seem that these hugely arcane tours through the court and social outliers are just an easy way to get more Meghan into the SEO terms. But the sheer churn of it all suggests that interest in the royals is the highest it’s been in years. Whether or not people care to admit it, they are most drawn to the Windsors when they are having unhappy dramas. The relationship of royal watchers to the watched is hugely dysfunctional. Take Prince Andrew’s 60th birthday, which was yesterday. A year ago, this event would have got no coverage to speak of, though the party he’d have thrown to celebrate might have provided some bog standard Range Rover arrival shots of people you didn’t care about even in the 90s. But given The Unpleasantness, there have been acres of stuff written about the very absence of celebration, all sufficiently lapped up for further acres of it to be produced to meet demand. There was the week of drama over whether or not councils should have to fly their town hall flags to mark it; the alleged “furore” over Westminster Abbey’s bells ringing for it; further slavering over how very little there was to slaver over. A personal favourite was Buckingham Palace’s unnecessary decision to press release the duke’s own decision NOT to become a full admiral, which you sense would have been a wrench for Andy. It’s a much better 60th birthday present than whisky stones, an apron saying “Old Fart”, or a brain-training game. Over to the formal Buckingham Palace communiqué on the matter, which milked the upset for all it was worth. It began ominously:

By convention, the Duke of York would be in line for military promotion on his 60th birthday. Following the decision by His Royal Highness to step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, the Duke of York has asked the Ministry of Defence if this promotion might be deferred until such time that His Royal Highness returns to public duty.

Could be the 12th of never; could be in his 90s, just in time to take advantage of the rising sea levels. Either way, you get the strong impression that the Windsors are still serving up exactly what people want. I’m struggling to imagine how they could have leaned in to it all any further, bar throwing Andrew’s 60th dinner at Pizza Express in Woking. Instead, Andrew’s bijou 60th gathering was held at Royal Lodge, home of the duke and his destranged wife, Duchess Fergie. According to reports, the number of invitees who found they were unavailable on the date grew so large that a second batch of invitations was sent out by Fergie’s assistant. The standout report into the matter was one in the Mail offering what its two authors called “a haunting insight” into the upcoming dinner. This opened with a throwback to the Queen’s 60th bash. “Click, click,” wrote the reporters of that event, really putting you inside the action. “Taking the pictures was her son, Andrew … He was 26. Friends recall him marvelling at his mother and wondering ‘what I’ll be like at 60’.” Well how very convenient for your article that they do. Or as the authors put it grimly:

Now we know.

Then again, the many “friends” of the Duke have been on hand since the Epstein story broke, and for the past few weeks have been chiefly concerned with furnishing non-details of the non-event of his holing up at home. “We call it being in the bunker”, confided one of these friends to the Mail this week, as though that were a terrifically abstruse term of art. So, yes, do expect much more news on all these developing stories in the months and years to come. For now, it is to be assumed that you are across the fact that Prince Andrew is hunkered down at home, what they call “being in the bunker,” with the weather “so wet that he has hardly been able to expel his frustrations on the golf course.” Perhaps that’s for the best. Were HRH to play a round, I can only picture him tailed by a helpful friend, who would mark any unfortunate foray into a sanded course hazard by solemnly informing other golfers:

We call it being in the bunker.

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