The Brexit Chaos
By Cllr Hugh Ashton
The elephant in the room - Bungling Boris has botched it
by Hugh Ashton
The current pandemic crisis has so dominated the news that our other ongoing crisis, the chaos and damage caused by this government's bungled exit from the European Union, seems to be almost neglected by the media. Far from having our cake and eating it, as PM Johnson claimed, we have dropped the cake on the floor, leaving us with an inedible mess. It's becoming increasingly clear that Brexit is far from DONE.
Even after all the negotiated battles over fishing, Johnson's deal has apparently killed much of the British fishing industry. It was the UK who, as a member of the EU, largely proposed the regulations and resulting paperwork that now hamper British seafood exports, done in order to protect European consumers from unregulated imports from outside the EU. So, contrary to what the Tory cheerleading press would have us believe, it's not the EU punishing us for leaving but us being subject to the rules we ourselves created!
Although it's been given less media space than fishing, the disaster to the financial services sector, completely ignored by Johnson's trade agreement, is far more serious for our national economy. The result of this omission - billions, if not trillions of pounds of capital fleeing the UK for the Continent with the result that centres within the EU are taking over the role of Europe's previous financial capital - London.
Every day there is a new story of companies losing exports because of increased costs and paperwork. It has reached the stage where the government is actually recommending that British companies move to the EU to remain solvent - an abject admission of failure. With the move go British jobs. Meanwhile, lorries return empty to the Continent, increasing the cost of imports into the UK.
In Great Britain these trade barriers have rarely led to empty supermarket shelves, but this has been an all too common experience in Northern Ireland, a visible sign of a much more dangerous problem. Unionists are determined there shall be no border between NI and Great Britain, Nationalists that it shall not be between the two Irelands, but the EU requires a border to exist somewhere. It will require a government with a higher degree of competence than ours has shown itself to possess to square this circle. Already, the storm clouds of civil unrest and the departure of Northern Ireland from the UK are appearing on the horizon, together with growing support for Scottish independence.
Professionals have now lost the reciprocal recognition of qualifications, meaning, for instance, that a British doctor can no longer automatically practice in Europe. For performers and musicians, the visa requirements and the red tape associated with equipment make it impractical to undertake European engagements, despite the EU having offered favourable visa terms for performers - an offer rejected by the UK government.
And of course, the loss of freedom of movement means that many UK businesses have lost valuable workers from EU countries. Not only that, but this restriction of freedom cuts both ways - many UK citizens are no longer EU citizens and find themselves unable to live out their retirement dreams of a sunny home in Spain or other Mediterranean countries. Hardly an achievement to gloat over, as the Home Secretary and her followers have been doing.
At the hustings for the General Election of December 2019, Michael Fabricant, Conservative MP for Lichfield and Burntwood, proclaimed, "There's so much more we can do when we're out, and we'll all be wealthier from it [Brexit]". This statement provoked disbelieving laughter from the audience - the disbelief has been shown to be prophetic. We are far from the "sunlit uplands" promised by the architects of Brexit - we are in a gloomy, seemingly endless, valley, as a direct result of the government's incompetence and ignorance, coupled with a toxic ideology, and we need to get out of it before we can see the sun again.
LibDems recognise that Brexit has occurred, but we also feel strongly that we need to maintain our ties with our European friends and neighbours - we must stop demonising them and work, with a healthy dash of realism, towards re-joining the single market and customs union. By doing this, we can reclaim some of the benefits and goodwill that we enjoyed as members of the European Union.