The Twelve Days of #Brexmas

The Twelve Days of Brexmas - European Movement

This Christmas let’s not forget that Brexit isn’t working.

With Brexit-induced shortages hitting the headlines, autumn 2021 saw military drivers drafted in to deliver petrol and a short-term visa scheme introduced in a desperate attempt to bring in 5 000 HGV drivers from abroad – a small proportion of the EU drivers who had left post-Brexit. Reportedly, only 200 applied.

Recruitment drives and higher wages have had some effect. But taking workers from other hard-pressed sectors could mean recruitment problems there. Higher pay will be cancelled out by inflation exacerbated by Brexit.

The bottom line is that Brexit has stopped the UK competing on an equal footing with neighbouring countries to recruit HGV drivers and other key workers.

The UK is still 80,000 HGV drivers short and, outside the single market, no longer benefits from ‘cabotage’ rules that allowed “a haulier from Łódź to do a trip that took in Leicester and Lyon”, largely free of red tape. This will increase transport costs for both exports and imports, making UK businesses less competitive and further adding to inflation.
In a European Movement survey in September 95% of respondents cited negative impacts of Brexit on their local community. 84% mentioned empty shelves in shops. (You can signal shortages here on our #BrexitIsntWorking heat map)

There have been reports of potential shortages of typical Christmas presents – such as bicycles - and of festive staples, including turkeys and alcoholic drinks. German TV channel Deutsche Welle (in English) fears that could make ‘even the most polite Briton lose composure’.

Even if crisis is averted at Christmas, suppliers warn that hard Brexit’s empty shelves will not go away in 2022.

Other factors – Covid-19, global labour shortages – have also been at play. But the UK has been harder hit than any EU country, because Brexit has slashed the labour force – fruit pickers, food processing workers, lorry drivers - and multiplied red tape.

Imports of food products to the UK from the EU are down 11%. This is only half the fall in UK exports to Europe. But it has reduced choice and made it harder and more expensive for UK food manufacturers to get essential ingredients, meaning higher prices.

And this is before full checks on EU imports at UK borders have begun.
In the US, chicken is often treated with chlorine. In the EU and – so far – in the UK, this is banned. It can mask major hygiene and animal welfare issues in the supply chain.

‘Chlorinated chicken’ has become emblematic of the risks involved in desperately searching for trade deals in a vain attempt to show that the Brexiteers’ ‘Global Britain’ is viable.

With the UK a supplicant, our counterparts can insist on opening up UK markets to products undercutting our high standards, long underpinned by EU membership. This unfair competition could put UK producers out of business.

Perhaps fortunately, given how weak the UK’s negotiating position would be, the US does not seem overly interested in a deal.

But UK farmers are horrified by the rushed deals with Australia and New Zealand.

What is more, there is negligeable economic benefit. The government’s own figures suggest that the Australia deal could grow the UK economy by 0.08% of GDP but that the loss from Brexit could be 4%. In other words, 50 times greater.

European Movement polling shows that only 10% of voters will put up with falling standards, even if the food is still safe to eat.
The UK Office of Budget Responsibility has found that UK exports to the EU were down around 15 per cent in August 2021 on their level before the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020.

The Centre for European Reform found that in September 2021, UK goods trade globally was 11.2 per cent, or £8.5 billion, lower than it would have been if the UK had stayed in the single market and customs union.

A new working paper by the Irish Economic and Social Research Institute estimates that the combined effects of Brexit may have led to aggregate UK exports to the EU since 2016 being 36% lower, with UK imports from the EU down by 24%.

According to an analysis by the Tony Blair Institute, all the tax rises announced in the 2021 Budget were down to Brexit reducing the size of the economy, and therefore tax revenues.

Meanwhile, Warwick University academics found that lower trade with the EU was damaging poorer UK regions most – meaning that ‘levelling up’ cannot be delivered under hard Brexit.
This autumn the UK government proposed to allow water companies to dump even more untreated sewage into British seas and rivers, only to change its mind after a public outcry. But the U-turn came only after massive sewage discharges under emergency Environment Agency regulations and a consistent pattern of unauthorised dumping by water companies.

This ‘brown flood’ was, as European Movement Chair Andrew Adonis wrote in Prospect in October, partly the result of a shortage of sewage treatment chemicals. That shortage stemmed from supply problems and HGV driver shortages caused by hard Brexit.

The government’s rejection of alignment with EU environmental rules risks other outrageous episodes of air and water pollution.

For example, over the last year, water firms spilled sewage into UK sea bathing waters 5,517 times, according to Surfers Against Sewage.

Environmental groups have credited EU regulation and ‘naming and shaming’ with playing a crucial part in raising UK bathing water standards. Brexit means that EU pressure to stay clean no longer applies to the UK – and in turn that the UK can no longer influence the behaviour of EU Member States where millions of Brits go to swim.
British cheesemakers had worked hard for decades to carve out European markets, in the face of tough competition from local rivals. And, against the odds, they did it. Then came Brexit.

One cheese producer told Euronews Brexit had "completely and utterly wiped out" his European business, adding “it goes off, then you’re throwing loads of cheese away which obviously is heartbreaking”.

This is just one example among thousands of the difficulties Brexit has inflicted on British food producers and retailers, ranging from a lack of EU workers to pick fruit, to stringent restrictions on trade in processed meat, to Marks and Spencer having to close half its food stores in the EU because of difficulties getting supplies from UK.

The UK Food and Drink Federation said sales to the EU were down £2.3 bn – nearly 24% - in the first three quarters of 2021.
The UK was a leading beneficiary of the EU’s Horizon programme to support research and innovation, both financially and because of the networks our world-class researchers could build with counterparts abroad. Brexit threw that away, to the consternation of leading British scientists such as Sir Paul Nurse.

The UK already lost out on £1.46 billion in grants between 2017 and 2020, according to Scientists for EU. And that was while we still formally part of the programme, so that figure will get much, much worse.

Scientists and researchers on both sides of the Channel have called for urgent agreement allowing the UK to continue to participate in Horizon post-Brexit, albeit on much less advantageous terms.

That has not yet happened, partly because of the government’s pointlessly confrontational wider approach to post-Brexit negotiations with the EU.

What is more, thanks to Brexit, the UK has already been shut out of the EU’s Galileo space and navigation system. Galileo is exactly the kind of massive cross-border project that needs to be done on a European scale to work effectively and to compete with the US and China. The UK once contributed and benefitted significantly.
Europeans want to see British performers. And our artists want to go. But the government’s hard Brexit has made this much more difficult, despite the EU’s willingness to negotiate solutions.

The Musicians’ Union says 77% of musicians expect their earnings in Europe to decrease. Furious Musicians’ Union activist and EM member Andrew Murray wrote passionately about the hard border for musicians on our website in May.

Bilateral agreements on waiving work permits have helped a little in 20 EU countries. But these deals vary in depth and quality - and seven Member States, including Spain, are still not covered.

There is a raft of problems beyond actors, musicians and other performers being able to work. The UK has turned its back on the single market, so there are barriers to working in the EU for technical staff such as lighting and sound engineers. Arranging the transport of equipment has become complex and bureaucratic, with the UK outside the customs union.

Difficulties for EU artists wanting to perform in UK often mirror those for British performers wanting to visit the EU. This risks depriving British audiences of quality and choice.
Brexit has become synonymous with traffic jams and queues.

Millions suffered long and often fruitless waits for petrol in autumn 2021. With the UK still 80,000 HGV drivers short, that might well happen again.

The Christmas 2020 Kent tailback nightmare has been repeated in 2021 after France again introduced restrictions on UK entrants – but not on people coming from EU countries. In the EU, Covid border measures are in general coordinated between Member States and the Commission, the kind of European cooperation the UK has excluded itself from.

This is before either full biometric checks on Brits entering the Schengen area – which MPs have been told could lead to 17-mile queues at Dover – or full controls on EU goods at UK ports have even entered into force. Those checks will likely lead to more gridlock.

And that is not all, as even the Daily Mail has recognised. British people, including drivers wanting to visit the EU via Eurotunnel or ferry, will soon to need to buy an EU visa waiver – and to prove at the border that it is in order. The UK is set to introduce a similar scheme for EU visitors. None of this would have happened inside the EU.
Before the 2016 referendum, Europhobe media frequently cited fishing as an industry that would thrive outside the EU.

But since the referendum, British fishers have been finding it hard or impossible to sell their catches into the EU, which pre-Brexit bought half of Britain’s total catch.

Demand for some types of fish and seafood is very limited in the UK. Conversely, some fish that Brits like to eat is caught mostly in EU waters.

One of the many bad effects of all the red tape, supply and transport problems, is that the great British treat, fish and chips, is going up in price. As one fish and chip shop owner in Hull told The Guardian: “I voted on the information I was given and within three days I just knew I’d voted the wrong way.”

Within a few weeks of the end of the transition period, UK fishers, too, were horrified to discover what Brexit really meant for them, including having to lay off crew members.

Meanwhile, a damaging row with France over fishing rights rumbles on. Pre-Brexit, robust differences of view over fishing were common but were resolved around the EU table – which makes sense as fish are a common resource that needs sharing and conserving
If hard Brexit could be summed up two words, they might be “red tape.’

Before Brexit, Britain agreed with the rest of the EU common rules on product quality and safety and on how to enforce those rules.

There was no need for goods made in the EU or legally imported into one EU country to be checked at borders within the EU.

Now, with the UK outside the single market and no longer at the table where rules are made, detailed checks – and much more costly and time-consuming paperwork – are required for goods moving in both directions.

This has had disastrous results. The Centre for European Reform estimated in September 2021 that the UK’s total goods trade was 11.2 per cent, or £8.5 billion, lower thanks to hard Brexit.

Even arch-Brexiteer Daily Express rang the alarm bell on 4 December, saying about the imminent introduction of full checks on EU imports to the UK : “A Brexit nightmare could be edging closer with red tape at risk of crippling small firms throughout the UK”.

Individuals as well as businesses are tangled up in this Brexit disaster – even sending Christmas gifts to loved ones in the EU has become a potential red tape nightmare.

2021 has shown us that Brexit isn’t working. On the twelfth day of Brexmas join a movement that is fighting for an alternative, a UK at the heart of Europe. Join the European Movement.

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