Brexit aggravates, not alleviates, UK’s mush of economic and environmental problems, says Rachel Morris
Waters filled with sewage. Obscene increases in energy prices and warnings of winter blackouts. Reduction in the quality and quantity of increasingly expensive foods. Crops rot in the fields. Strikes for better conditions by key workers. The NHS ‘winter crisis’ is happening in the height of summer. Galloping inflation. Supply chain issues. Dormant diseases reappear. Companies in difficulty or withdrawn. The hard-won peace in Northern Ireland is under threat. Recession.
It sounds like a dystopian movie, but it’s UK in the summer of 2022, even for those with enough cash to pay for it. Examine Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: the two fundamental bars of the pyramid, basic physiological needs and security needs, are being pulled out for more people faster than living memory, like a diabolical existential game of Jenga.
Needless to say, much of this disaster can be attributed to Brexit, and, indeed, it goes without saying. The government certainly does not recognize this, and few in the Fourth Estate do.
Other things are incriminated. The war in Ukraine, which has affected food prices and energy supply, making markets more volatile, as well as the ongoing effects of COVID-19.
The obvious way to determine if Brexit is involved is to look at countries that have not left the trading bloc and see how they are coping with the effects of war and plague.
A guidance note by John Springford published by the Center for European Reform in June does just that, comparing the UK economy with ‘lookalikes‘; a model using countries with similar economic performance to the UK during the EU Referendum and Brexit transition periods.
This method makes it possible to oppose a UK Brexit to one which has not left the EU. By this metric, Brexit has made things much worse. Springford describes his findings as “sobering” and, in line with the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast, that the damage from Brexit will outweigh that from COVID, reducing GDP by 4% in the long term, which the FinancialTimes estimates will cost £100bn in lost production and £40bn less revenue to the Treasury, every year.
British GDP lower by 5.2%; investment down 13.7%; merchandise trade down 13.6%. Springford notes that a 2.9% decline in GDP has emerged between the UK and doppleganger model after the referendum but even before the start of the pandemic; investment has lagged since the referendum and trade in goods has declined when the UK left the single market. Only inflation is a problem whose causes and impacts are more global.
An empty ball
A national survey by One World Express in January, nearly one in three businesses feared they would not survive 2022. personnel and export problems impossible. 73% said their business did not benefit from it.
But forget all that. Forget the fishing and farming industries; ignoring the UK’s lag behind all other G7 countries in pandemic recovery; that there is more paperwork, not less; that the airports are in disarray; that nursing home and hospital staff are at crisis point.
Let’s play a simulation game where Brexit didn’t help bring this country to its knees. And consider whether, in the midst of a much worse cost of living crisis here than elsewhere, whether we can still afford Brexit.
If Brexit didn’t get us into this mess, can it get us out?
Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Vote Leave campaign leader Gisela Stuart said days before the 2016 referendum that Brexit would mean lower gas and electricity bills, adding: ‘Poorer households spend three times more of their income on household energy bills than the wealthiest households. spend. As long as we are in the EU, we are not entitled to reduce VAT on energy bills.
While it was true that VAT on domestic fuel could not be lower than 5% due to bloc competition laws, it should be noted that it was the UK that imposed the tax, not the EU, in 1993. And six years after Johnson said “we can get rid of this unfair and damaging tax,” he firmly refused.
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Johnson repeatedly said during the referendum campaign that the UK would take back control of around £350million a week that it sent to the EU. The pledge adorned Vote Leave’s ‘battle bus’, which announced that EU funds would ‘fund the NHS instead’.
More money is going to the NHS, but it’s not Brexit money, and it’s not enough. The service is in a post-Brexit staffing crisis – exacerbated by COVID – resulting in poor ambulance performance. Some hospitals set up food banks for staff.
Another Brexit promise was that the UK was free to strike trade deals with countries it chose, with Johnson saying the US would be “in the front line”. With a Biden presidency instead of a Trump “presidency”, that’s much less likely. In May, when the government threatened to act unilaterally to overturn the Northern Ireland Protocol, it was rebuked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying Congress ‘cannot and will not support a deal bilateral free trade agreement” if the UK undermines its own Brexit withdrawal agreement.
One of the biggest justifications for Brexit, touted by both Tory leadership candidates, is a “bonfire” of EU regulations. But if you want to continue exporting to the EU, the bloc’s regulations still apply.
Domestic deregulation has led water companies to fill the country’s shores and rivers with untreated sewage, in part because, thanks to Brexit, they struggle to acquire the necessary processing chemicals. Dirty beaches mean reduced tourism, which means less profit for local businesses, which means businesses fold or raise prices.
An unfortunate breakup
So, could Brexit help alleviate the cost of living crisis? In some ways it might be, if the promises were kept or if they had been true in the first place.
Yet the Brexit “dividends” so desperately needed today were only a mirage.
On top of that, the country is under ‘austerity 2.0’, partly through cuts to public services and pay cuts in real terms, partly through Brexit itself, without ever being named or acknowledged .
Despite all the rhetoric about the “race to the top”, a Bloomberg analysis found that “the pay gap is widening in nine out of 10 constituencies, housing affordability is deteriorating almost everywhere and public spending per capita is below the capital in all parts of England”.
There is a cost to the rent crisis plaguing the poor and young across the country, as landlords try to protect their bank accounts from the impending economic disaster.
War and pandemic related supply chain issues, global inflation issues – these issues create challenges for some and existential struggles for others. They affect all countries, which treat them differently.
But further misery has been inflicted on the UK by its miserable break with the EU. What Brexit claimed to fix it made him rather skeptical; the dumping of raw sewage on popular beaches being an all too symbolic snapshot of the state of the nation and the dirty, empty promises of its zombie government.
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