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‘British jobs for British workers’ is returning, a fascist invasion into mainstream politics

The terminology running through the government’s leaked Brexit plans – and Labour’s reaction – is shocking and hasn’t received enough coverage or investigation

Leaked Brexit proposals have revealed that the guiding principle of the government’s post-Brexit immigration plan is to put British workers first. This is transparent in the statement that: “Wherever possible, UK employers should look to meet their labour needs from resident labour.” It’s also driven home in the proposal to impose a “skills tax” on companies that continue to hire workers from outside the UK.

Writing for The Guardian, Rachel Shabi discusses this in more detail.  She strongly fees that the shocking terminology running through this government’s leaked plans has not been met with enough scrutiny. Instead, news programmes have been asking representatives of job sectors from care to hospitality why they aren’t already employing British workers (essentially: there aren’t enough non-migrants with the right skills who want to do those jobs).

Labour MP Owen Smith appeared on the Daily Politics show to pronounce he had “no problem with British jobs for British workers as an aspiration”.  This phrase has reappeared numerous times since – but this doesn’t face up to the notion that the plans may be a xenophobic plan with fascist roots.

Gordon Brown used the term while Labour prime minister in 2007 but he did not invent it. As was highlighted in parliament by the then Conservative leader David Cameron, such slogans could be found in leaflets from the National Front and the British National party.  In fact, the phrase has been used as far back as the 1930’s.

But, as journalist and author Daniel Trilling notes, what counts as a British worker or, in a globalised economy, a British job?

Who gets to define “British” here and on what basis: birthplace, citizenship, residence, skin tone? Stripped of absolute meaning, it is clear that this slogan has no purpose but to serve as xenophobic signalling.

This is confirmed even further by the government’s plan to use two- and three-year work visas for EU migrants. It sets up an ugly way forward for Britain, where the status of European migrants is uncertain and completely changed; they would be guest workers, rather than welcome residents who live alongside us and as part of our communities. However, people’s life-long plans and goals are rarely to move to a country on a time-limited period.  People move here to live their full lives in their work, friends, families, schools and social activities – all which has made Britain so diverse and appealing.

In fact, there are far more pressing issues in the UK job market such as low pay, zero-hour contracts and poor working conditions.  This is particularly proven by the recent British strike at McDonald’s over zero-hours contracts, union recognition and the right to a minimum wage. These brave workers kept the focus exactly where it should be: on workplace conditions and a government that allows exploitative practices such as zero-hours contracts.

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One comment

  1. What utter rubbish has been written here?
    To the author of this dross:
    To even hint that Gordon Brown is a nasty racist shows ignorant, stupid hysteria.
    So Mr Brown wasn’t the first to use the term ‘British jobs for British workers’? The BNP did? Therefore there are racist overtones in his doing so? Really? So if Nick Griffin were to ask for more milk in his tea before I do, if I then make the same request, that makes me a racist? Do you see how thick your argument is?
    Any racism lies in actual words used and the intent behind their use – not simply because someone else said it before. Genghis Khan liked to ride horses, Frankie Dettori likes to ride horses – does your logic really go no further than saying therefore Franki Dettori is in sympathy with one of the biggest murdering swine the world has seen?
    What a filthy, filthy question to ask when you write: “Who gets to define “British” here and on what basis: birthplace, citizenship, residence, skin tone?”
    Playing the racism card to anyone who dare think other than you? Different to your ignorant, stupid hysteria?
    I’ll define British here for you: someone who lives here and is able to claim benefit but would rather be working.
    There. That’s the answer – sorry for not conforming to your ignorant, stupid and hysterical picture of a racist: I couldn’t give a whit for the person’s “birthplace, citizenship, residence, skin tone” and nor could Gordon Brown either.
    He meant he wanted work for those living here regardless of the criteria you list (I still can’t get over how you greased your weasly way down to using ‘skin tone’ – that really is shockingly poor of you).
    Thereby enabling whoever that person is, to contribute and to keep/regain their self-esteem – rather than create jobs that some poor soul from another country comes over to fill because they’ll work for peanuts with little/no rights to union protection.
    By labelling the concept that Gordon Brown put forward as nasty racism is just plain nastiness on your part – it’s ignorant, stupid hysteria.
    Have you ever watched the early episodes of ‘World at War’? If you do, you’ll see exactly which group of people were so very nastily successful at whipping up ignorant, stupid hysteria.

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