This has been floating around the interweb for the last few days.
First thing to say is that it’s a parody account and not the real Ken Clarke, but for all that it was put to me that the point is still valid. Is it really?
Before we go anywhere else, what there is of an argument here presupposes that fruit and veg picking is an unskilled job which anyone could do – an argument which could only have been made by someone who has never had to do it. It requires physical fitness and dexterity and no small amount of skill. Yes, I know that the east end of London used to decamp to Kent every autumn to bring in the hops, but that only serves to illustrate the point. Hop picking is now done largely by tractor, but it used to require skills not generally available in the workforce – not least the ability to work on stilts – and these were passed down generation to generation by families who usually went to the same farms each year.
The most recent circulation that I’ve seen of this tweet was from a Facebook group describing itself as “A page for those from (county deleted to maintain family peace) to promote the EU, and a reversal (or at the very least toning down) of the destructive ‘Brexit’ project.” I have no doubt, judging from the comments left underneath it, that they thought it was spiffingly good fodder, but I do doubt that they stopped to consider how much it contradicts a major part of their own cause.
The fruit-pickers in question are coming from Romania, which is an EU state and, as such, there is currently no power in law to stop them from entering – it’s EU law enshrined in UK law, go look it up. If, as was put to me, we could find 70,000 people within our current unemployed to go out in the fields, why do we still need freedom of movement?