After a disastrous result in the council elections, Ukip are trying to pick up support by urging students to pick fruit to stop immigration.
The thinking behind the bizarre policy is to “use up the human capital that exists in this country” before attracting “as many people as makes sense” from other countries to work in the industry, according to Ukip immigration spokesman John Bickley.
He stated that reforms to the welfare and education system are needed to increase the number of home-grown workers available to the agriculture sector.
Mr Bickley said fruit picking was previously a “rite of passage” to earn extra cash for people about to go to university or at university.
The idea is part of what Ukip leader Paul Nuttall labelled an “honest and clear commitment to cut immigration” by pledging to ensure the same number of people leave the country as come into it over a rolling five-year period.
Ukip wants to establish a migration control commission to reduce the numbers of people arriving in the UK from 600,000 to around 300,000 a year in order to meet the target of zero net migration.
Six-month visas would be offered to non-Britons seeking seasonal work in the UK agriculture industry under the proposal.
Mr Bickley, speaking as the policy was launched at a Westminster event, said: “The number of such visas would be progressively reduced over time by the migration council as other measures are taken across the welfare and education system to increase the availability of home-grown labour.”
Questioned about the policy, he also said: “I don’t think we’re very productive in this country during the winter months when there’s snow on the ground or there’s frost.
“So they need to be here when the work is available and that’s during the summer months. So we issue a six-month visa.
“We also want to encourage our own people to get back into that industry.
“There used to be a time when it was a rite of passage that people going through, if you like, an internal gap year in this country or on their way to university or at university, that to get some extra cash in, guess what they’d do, they’d go fruit picking.”
Mr Bickley added: “This idea that we just have to keep looking abroad all the time to fill all our requirements is crazy.
“We need to make sure we use up the human capital that exists in this country and maximise its potential and then let’s attract as many people as makes sense from anywhere in the world.
“Not interested in the colour of their skin. Not interested in their religion. Not interested in their sexuality, don’t care. Not interested in their ethnicity.
“If they can bring value to this country and it fits in with what we’re trying to achieve, great, welcome to Britain.”
People on Twitter mocked the policy no sooner than it had been announced:
Reading #ukip‘s policy on immigration is just beyond ludicrous. Good luck finding any English people wanting to pick fruit you loons
— Karl-Jonas Johansson (@Eggstones) May 8, 2017
— Danny Macdonald (@DannyMac2794) May 8, 2017
— Liberal Patriot (@LiberPatriot) May 8, 2017
Ukip’s pledge to pursue a zero net migration target is seen as a bid to put further pressure on the Conservatives, who are expected to maintain their policy to reduce migration numbers to the tens of thousands.
Mr Nuttall said net migration figures from last year showed a “city the size of Newcastle” came to the UK despite the Tory party pledge.
He said: “It has been the equivalent of a city the size of Birmingham over the past three years net.
“This is clearly unsustainable and it is clearly unfair, particularly to inner city communities.”
He argued it puts strain on the NHS, schools and other services.
Mr Nuttall went on: “Ukip will go in to this election with a policy of balanced migration, which means zero net immigration over the next five-year period.”
Top pic: PA