Waiter, It’s We Who'll Have to Wait

If EU migrants leave, it'll take "years and years" for British workers to fill the vacated low-skilled jobs, warned Brexit Secretary David Davis.

He specifically highlighted the gaping holes to be left in hospitality, agriculture and social care. "We're a successful economy... talented people come to Britain," Mr Davis explained.

Far be it from me to suggest that it takes little talent to serve pizzas, dig up potatoes and take out bedpans. It is, however, hard to accept that our native pool of talent has run so dry that, but for migrants, our restaurants will have to become self-serve and our spuds will rot in the ground.

It's true that about 40 per cent of such jobs are currently done by migrants. But it's not true that the British are constitutionally incapable of citing today's specials or picking apples.

The problem isn't that they can't do such jobs. It's that they won't. And the root of that problem isn't constitutional but institutional.

Responsibility lies with the very same HMG that Mr Davis serves. And the same institution could solve the problem in... well, perhaps not one fell swoop, but certainly faster than "years and years".

First, why aren't Britons filling those jobs? Is our education so superior that it churns out nothing but prodigies ready to become computer programmers, fund managers and Brexit Secretaries?

In fact, our education is the laughing stock of the world. The literacy rate in Britain is lower now than it was in the 1890s, and our commendably comprehensive schools are churning out not prodigies but illiterate, deracinated youngsters with feral faces, tattoos and a sense of entitlement.

Nevertheless one doesn't have to be a scholar to ask "still or sparkling?". So why do we need migrants, many of whom can't even ask "still or sparkling?" so we'll understand? Why can't our home-grown Tom, Dick and Harry do that?

Simple. Tom, Dick and Harry don't have to demean themselves by performing such menial tasks because they have an alternative source of income. It's variously called 'social', 'benefits' or 'welfare'.

Now sociologists will tell you that what drives people into work are two impulses: quest for survival and desire to get ahead in life. They'll also tell you that the former is much more powerful and widespread than the latter.

Just about anyone will do any job if his breakfast depended on it. Only a minority, albeit perhaps a large one, will work hard to be able to move from a free council flat into an expensive semi.

Readily available benefits won't satisfy such potential high achievers. But benefits will reduce the survival instinct in the other group to practically nothing. Welfare recipients won't live well, but they know they'll live.

Potential high achievers won't be seeking lowly jobs. They'll all want to be computer programmers, fund managers or, at a pinch, Brexit Secretaries. It's those currently on benefits who'd compete with Romanians and Bulgarians if their benefits dried up.

We're talking significant numbers here: about 8.9 million 16-64 year-olds are out of work. Some, let's be generous and say half, of them can't work for health and other legitimate reasons. HMG must look after them, even though our disability-benefit rolls suggest we have more cripples now than in the aftermath of either World War.

That still leaves millions of those who could feed themselves but won't - and haven't, often for three generations in the same family. This isn't so much fair as foul play: in the absence of socialist brainwashing, surely most hard-working people would sense the injustice of having to pay for sponging layabouts.

Spending over 35 per cent of the budget on hand-outs creates a massive economic problem, which is self-explanatory. But the attendant social and cultural problems are much deadlier. For creating a vast lumpen underclass subsisting on benefits produces an accelerating knock-on effect in just about every area of life.

It's mostly this underclass that swells all sorts of undesirable statistics: crime, teenage pregnancies, STDs, drug addiction, single-parent families and so forth. The last one is particularly devastating.

Provider state has squeezed itself into the slot occupied in the past by provider father. Thus made redundant, the father flees. In fact, our council estates operate a zero-sum game: every time a child is born, a man disappears.

This has dire effects on society at large, for the family is its building block. Knock that block out, and the whole social structure becomes a rubble heap.

But enough theorising. In the spirit of much-touted British pragmatism, here's a practical solution, reducing Mr Davis's "years and years" to six months.

Once the migrants have vacated their unskilled jobs and left the country, HMG announces that, following a six-month grace period, all benefits for able-bodied Britons will be stopped.

Businesses requiring low-skilled employees will at the same time receive one-off subsidies to beef up their advertising in the Appointments sections and to train the newcomers.

You'd be amazed how quickly the untapped reserves of British talent will erupt into life. And I'd be amazed if any such difficult solution can even be mentioned in Westminster. Filling Britain to the gunwales with migrants is so much easier.

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Alexander Boot blogs at http://www.alexanderboot.com/blog/.