Prison Labour Isn’t Going To Help British Farmers Pick Fruit Post-Brexit


The thought that prison labour, on day release, might be a solution to the distressing lack of Eastern Europeans post-Brexit on British farms is an interesting one. It appears at least to be a viable solution. And yet it commits that basic fallacy of thinking that human labour is homogenous, that we can just assign whomever to whatever and the job gets done. This rather striking against the grain of the one thing we know makes us truly rich, the division and specialisation of labour.

So, this isn’t going to work, no:

Farmers say prisoners who are allowed to work on day release could help fill the post-Brexit void left by EU fruit pickers. Ministers are planning to relax the rules that will allow more offenders out to work while they complete their sentence. Currently offenders in open prisons must wait a year before being allowed out to work in the community, but earlier this week David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, proposed they could be allowed to work on day to boost their job prospects. Suzannah Starkey, who runs Starkey’s Fruit in Northamptonshire, said she is currently in discussions about how to recruit prisoners to pick strawberries and apples at her farm come harvest season.

Day release for prisoners nearing the end of their terms, yes, great idea. Much better to gradually acclimatise to the outside world. But as a replacement for fruit pickers?

So, what’s the actual complaint that British farmers have about using British labour in their fields? That we’re all too soft, unwilling to put in the hard physical labour the job requires. It’s not even the money – which isn’t bad actually – on offer, it’s the nature of the work itself.

Now consider the prison population. These are the hard working ones of our society, are they? Those who decided that a few years grunt work would be the route to a better life rather than attempting to find a short cut to riches? Prison has deliberately selected for the non-lazy, has it?

Quite. The general British population doesn’t meet the hard work standards of farm labour, the soon to be ex-prison section of that population is not noted for being selected from the harder working portion of the general – it’s not going to work, is it?

As to the actual post-Brexit solution we just do what we did before the EU, before the EEC, before the infestation of federasts. We issue work visas to however many non-Brits care to come pick the fruit and veg. We had such a scheme from the 1940s on. Actually, we’ve already said we’ll revive it, the problem is solved anyway.

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