UK has ‘broken free from curse of low wages’, Secretary of State Kwasi Kwarteng tells Tory conference
- Business secretary said Brexit could reset economy with higher wages
- Came as farmers protested outside the conference against the lack of butchers in the UK
- Boris Johnson seemed oblivious to the factors facing the industry on Sunday
The UK has broken free from the curse of low wages, Kwasi Kwarteng said yesterday.
The trade minister told the Tories that Brexit was an ‘opportunity’ to reset the economy with higher wages and more skilled jobs – as ministers faced warnings of disaster due to labor shortages.
Farmers protested outside the conference about a lack of butchers, warning that the shortage would lead to the unnecessary slaughter of tens of thousands of pigs.
Yesterday, Mr Kwarteng delivered a strong message that there was no return to the pre-Brexit reliance on high immigration and low-paid workers
Last night government sources said butchers were on the ‘skilled’ list and could therefore work in the UK, provided they met language and salary requirements.
The agricultural sector wants some criteria to be relaxed.
On Sunday, Boris Johnson seemed oblivious to the factors facing the industry.
Yesterday, Mr Kwarteng delivered a strong message that there was no return to the pre-Brexit reliance on high immigration and low-paid workers.
“As a result of Brexit, we are essentially disconnected from that model and what we want to do, where we want to go, is a highly paid, highly educated economy,” he said.
No. 10 urged government to work with meat processing industry to allay concerns
Pig farmers say a lack of skilled butchers could lead to the ’emotional and financial disaster’ of 120,000 animals being slaughtered on farms and then burned for being unable to go to the slaughterhouse.
They were holding signs that read, “No butchers. No bacon. No British pig industry.’
The president of the National Farmers Union warned of a “welfare disaster” over the issue.
Minette Batters told Radio 4’s Today program: ‘We have never culled healthy livestock in this country and this cannot be a first.’
Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, said he was “surprised” that the prime minister seemed unaware of the problems pig farmers face.
Tens of thousands of butchers are needed, and the training period for each is about 18 months, he said.
‘These are not people you can just take off the street. It takes time to train these people, we are about 10,000 to 15,000 people short.
“We have been dependent on non-UK workers for a long time and it will take a long time to adapt.”
No. 10 urged the government to work with the meat processing industry to allay the concerns.
Mr Johnson seemed oblivious to the issue when questioned on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show. His first reaction was: ‘I hate to tell you, but I’m afraid that many animals are being killed in our food processing industry.’
When pointed out to the Prime Minister that the problem was that they could not be sold for food, he replied: “The great hecatomb [sacrifice] of pigs you describe hasn’t happened yet, let’s see what happens.’
The Business Secretary told the Tories Brexit was an ‘opportunity’ to reset the economy with higher wages
The pig farm is facing difficulties due to various issues, including a lack of butchers and other production workers.
Due to labor shortages and Covid outbreaks in factories, there is insufficient capacity to process the meat.
While butchers are on the skilled list of workers who will allow foreigners to work in the UK post-Brexit if they meet the criteria, the industry argues the rules are too strict.
In order to be able to work as a butcher, they must meet language and salary requirements. Ministers say problems will arise as Britain transitions to a higher-wage economy and will no longer depend on cheap European labour.
But pig farmers are demanding short-term visas for foreign workers because they say they haven’t had enough time to train a UK-based workforce.
Government sources said they were “looking at a range of options” to tackle the problem – but short-stay visas were unlikely to be included.