Brexit in South Holland five years on
A concerned South Holland grower says the fallout from Brexit has left the area with a ‘critical’ shortage of workers.
It was five years yesterday since the country went to the polls to vote in the Brexit referendum - and South Holland had the second highest Leave vote in the country, with 73.6% of people voting to end our EU membership.
Sue Lamb, who owns Lambs Flowers, says there is now an ‘enormous’ labour shortage which is getting worse – and that’s most acute with lorry drivers.
She said there’s a distinct danger that goods will fail to reach depots and customers if the situation does not improve.
She added: “I think the problem with lorry drivers is serious – far more serious than the government or certain local politicians acknowledge.
“We are in a muddle basically and I don’t know how you get out of it. I think it’s going to take politicians to see some empty plates.”
She does not think this proves Brexit was a mistake – but does believe the exit from the EU is being badly handled.
She feels the benefits system does little to encourage people to take on seasonal work – and says there’s too much ‘absolute rubbish’ said about low paid work – arguing that many jobs in the district’s horticulture sector are well paid.
Sue added: “Foreign workers have already moved here. They have come from home to here for a better life, they won’t think twice about whether they go to Germany or Sweden or somewhere else.
“They have done all that once – and hats off to them. We are now seeing how we just cannot cope without them.”
Craig Jackson, Vote Leave co-ordinator for South Holland and the Deepings in the 2016 poll, feels companies need to take responsibility for filling vacancies.
He said: “Overall some businesses, in the short term, are going to have some labour shortages but they have got to step up and start training people.
“The number of young people out of work has been stubbornly high. Unfortunately one of the reasons was the big pool of readily trained labour.”
He feels the split from the EU has helped regain a sense of ‘freedom and democracy’ – and believes voters in South Holland will feel the benefit in the coming years.
Mr Jackson added: “I think they will see a difference in the front line services and in local employment opportunities and the way businesses are regulated
“Covid means that the Government has been distracted and they have not taken full advantage of all the Brexit opportunities open to them.
“It will come. It’s already started but it’s small steps because Covid is holding it back but I think there’s great opportunities for this area.”
George Smid stood in South Holland and the Deepings for the Liberal Democrats in the 2015 General Election and is East Midlands chairman of the European Movement body.
He said the last five years have proven the ‘factual’ side of the Remain case to be right – pointing to impacts on trade and issues in Northern Ireland.
However, he added: “When it comes to the emotional part, that’s where the Leavers are still miles ahead and it almost doesn’t matter what happens.
“It’s still very much in the same pattern, the only thing which would force people to reconsider their situation would be if it suddenly started manifesting itself in a real way and that’s unfortunate.”
Mr Smid, whose group campaigns to forge close links to the EU, believes it might take 15 years before the emotional case can be won by pro-EU groups.
He added: “It’s a generation thing. It will happen, but it will take time.”
Also: Businesses in South Holland are being encouraged to make sure their staff have signed up for the right to remain in the UK post Brexit.