Keir Starmer questioned over his silence on failures of Brexit
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Chronic vacancies in the food and farming sector could see food prices continue to rise, according to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. It said that as of August last year the sector had “potentially in excess of 500,000 job” shortages.
The MPs concluded that the problems would lead to an increase in food prices due to a rise in wages and that in turn Britain would import more food from abroad.
Conservative MP Neil Parish, who chairs the committee, told Express.co.uk that the Government risked failing to live up to the promise to increase consumption of British produce unless urgent action was taken.
“I want us to produce more food, I want Brexit to be a success,” he said.
“I think that we can actually take this opportunity.
“We can plant more vegetables, we can grow more salads.
“But the farmers and the growers won’t plant them if they haven’t got the labourers to pick them.”
He said his committee had found Home Office controls on immigration had led to a workforce shortage.
Britain has in the past filled a vast number of labourer roles in the agriculture sector from abroad.
But with the end of free movement, after the UK left the EU, those looking to work in Britain must apply for a visa.
The Tiverton and Honiton MP claimed “a hugely bureaucratic process” was stopping the UK from accessing workers from the continent by placing unnecessary requirements on those seeking to travel to Britain.
The committee chair told this website: “The Home Office want us to produce more home labour and more mechanisation.
“That can all happen, and it can happen over a period of time but it can’t happen overnight.”
He continued: “Most people I know who voted for Brexit were not anti-immigration, but they wanted control over it.
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We must not be ideologically opposed to controlled immigration in to pick our vegetables, pick our flowers, do our processing.
“Let’s produce more good quality, high welfare British food.”
The cross-party report – devised by six Tory and four Labour MPs along with one SNP colleague – warned increased food prices, caused by Brexit, the pandemic and Russia’s invasion on Ukraine would be here to stay unless the Government reacted to the current problems.
It said: “The Government must radically shift its attitude and work together with the sector to devise solutions that speedily help address the problems it faces, in the short, medium and long-term to help the UK’s food industry and enable it to thrive.
“Failure to do so risks shrinking the sector and leading to higher food inflation at the price of the UK’s competitiveness, thereby making the country more reliant on food imports as we export our food production capacity – as well as the jobs it supports – abroad.”
Earlier this week, Brexit Opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg rejected suggestions leaving the EU was to blame for soaring food prices.
“There is a global inflation in food prices which has nothing to do with Brexit,” he told LBC radio.
“The fact that the wheat price has gone up because, partly, the invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s forces, is not something I was speculating on in the run-up to Brexit.”
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