'Hard Brexit' threatens strawberry shortage at Wimbledon - Vince Cable
The Government’s “extreme” plan for Brexit could cause a shortage of strawberries at Wimbledon, Vince Cable has warned.
Dr Cable, who is currently the only candidate to be the new Liberal Democrat leader, said his party was likely to gain support as the “economic pain” of leaving the European Union on the terms proposed by the Government becomes evident.
As an example, he said foreign fruit pickers who provide the favourite snack at the tennis grand slam were already being deterred from coming to the UK.
“This week Wimbledon is being launched and the people who normally produce the strawberries can’t produce them because the labour force has disappeared because of anxiety about their future status in Britain,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.
“And that’s one of hundreds and hundreds of practical examples of the way in which this extreme form of Brexit is going to harm Britain and we’ve got to stop it.”
Marion Regan, who owns the Kent farm which provides Wimbledon’s strawberries, admitted recently that she was nervous about the implications of Brexit for her workforce.
She told the Guardian: “In common with lots of other horticultural producers, such as apple growers and salad growers, we all depend on having a really good supply of seasonal labour to help hand-harvest our crops, and we are extremely lucky on this farm to have some fantastic people predominantly from eastern European Union countries who come here for the summer.
“I very much hope that when we leave the European Union there will still be a mechanism by which these great young people are still able to come here.”
Ms Regan added to the South West Londoner website: “Obviously Brexit is a concern.
“But I’m confident that the Government appreciates the importance of seasonal work for British horticulture and for the food industry.”
‘CORBYN’S HARD BREXIT’
Elsewhere in his interview, Dr Cable insisted that his preferred option of single market membership could be reconciled with a measure of control over immigration.
“I think it is absolutely possible to remain within the single market, to respect the principle of freedom of movement, but to have some degree of management of migration. Other countries do it, we should do it,” he said.
And he also hit out at Labour – which has previously suggested it would not try to remain part of the single market – and said the Liberal Democrats would reap the electoral benefits.
The former business secretary said: “My party is in exactly the right position, representing a very, very large swathe of public opinion that is becoming very alarmed at the way in which this hard Brexit option is being pursued, not just by the Conservatives but by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.
“They do want an alternative and when we see the economic pain kicking in, more and more people are going to want an alternative and we’re the only party offering [it].”