Following on earlier posts on (loosely) war and pestilence, I am British, and am seeing a steadily worsening “apocalyptic” situation in the progress of Brexit, which, in brief, was the ripping up of trade agreements of 40 years standing with Europe (with whom much of our trade was, and on which trade we rely, not being self-sufficient in very much), and their replacement with trade barriers. Against the background of this, the current government, with 43% support in the country but a massive 80 seat controlling majority in Parliament, is tearing up safeguards against arbitrary rule, such as the power of the courts to restain government actions, the ability to protest peacefully, Human Rights legislation, the ability of parliament to control what the government does and a fixed term for parliaments. It is not difficult to see authoritarian government on the horizon, even if it maybe isn’t quite already here – and this is against the background of record business insolvencies, shortages of labour, goods and medicines and, of course, a sluggish-to-nonexistent growth in the economy after a substantial contraction due to Covid. Oh, and the likely departure of Northern Ireland and Scotland from the United Kingdom, which will no longer have any claim to that title. Scotland leaving would remove the right to the title “Great Britain” and if Wales were to leave as well (not particularly likely as things stand, but possible), we’d just be England.

This post is in the position in the sequence which should be occupied by famine, and though we have seen a shortage of some foodstuffs, we haven’t yet got to the stage of food riots, which were predicted by some of my fellow Remainers to occur within six months of leaving the EU. But, of course, we haven’t yet completed the process. The EU were carrying out checks on our exports to them, notably phytosanitary, which can, for instance, deny access for nursery plants if they have any soil on them, and rules of origin, which can impose the tariffs the free trade agreement was supposed to avoid if some of the materials used in making the product were from outside the UK, something which is horribly common given transnational supply chains from day 1. We, however, have delayed and delayed carrying out similar checks on imports from the EU. It seems we lack the capacity to do that, and will be delaying again in summer, which, of course, gives EU suppliers a competitive advantage over our own. As and when we do “our side” of the effects of leaving the Customs Union and regulatory alignment, food supply is going to be a major headache – we import a vast amount of our food from the EU.

Add to that the fact that lack of EU labour has meant that crops went unharvested and animals had to be killed and burned, the latter due to the lack of vets in slaughterhouses. Farmers faced with those losses are, of course, not planting this year, and not buying in young animals to rear – so our domestic supply of some foods will reduce, and we weren’t remotely self-sufficient in food to start with.

What I definitely see already is a massive increase in the number of people who need to use food banks in order to survive, and that is going to get substantially worse given that energy costs to households are going up by over 50% as I write, with another increase due in the Autumn. Granted, the energy crisis is not directly a result of Brexit, that is down to world conditions including slowness in recovering capacity not needed during the pandemic and the Ukraine war putting into question Russian (and Ukrainian) supplies of gas and other fossil fuels. But the effect on the consumer is massively impacted by Brexit – we are not in the common energy market of the EU, and that has allowed France (for instance) to limit the increase in its energy bills to the customer to 4%. Do you stay relatively warm or eat? We may not be in famine as a country yet, but the poorest among us are already in famine conditions.

Note that I bemoan earlier the lack of growth in the economy. Yes, I believe we need to try not to rely on economic growth given the reality of climate change, but I don’t relish the prospect of trying to do it as a country alone (as what the rest of the world does or rather is not doing is going to impact us far more than anything we might do by ourselves), and in the process civil unrest and possibly even revolution is a possible scenario. We have, for instance, seen that a reduction of maybe 10,000 HGV drivers threw our supply system into complete disarray. The figure often given for the shortage was 100,000, but other European countries have not far short of that nominal shortfall, but no supply chain difficulties; it appears that the absence of a relatively few European drivers has had a disproportionate effect, though the lack of the ability of our own drivers to pick up and drop off consignments throughout Europe (cabotage) is definitely another factor. It is not difficult to extrapolate that small shortfalls in other areas will have similarly disproportionate effects, and obvious candidates are the lack of seasonal agricultural workers, vets and immigrant staff in the NHS and private care systems. Our economic system is built on growth – if you don’t grow, don’t increase productivity, your business will probably fail. There seems a fair chance that a national decline will mean that the country fails.

So, I see a possible end to my nation, both in the breakup of the UK and in a possible fascist-like state in what remains, with a disintegrating economy.

The revelation of unknown knowledge there is, of course, the idiocy of Brexit as a concept. Admittedly, perhaps 48% of those who voted in the 2016 referendum already knew this, but they were (just) not a majority. Hope for a “deus ex machina” has pretty much faded – back in 2016-19, there remained some hope that MPs would find some solution short of a near-complete severing of ties with Europe, but the 2019 election delivering an 80 seat majority to a Conservative party purged of any but die-hard Brexiteers pretty much destroyed that, and Labour consistently denying any possibility of rejoining has done the rest. For those who, like me, consider Brexit to be possibly the worst national decision we have ever made, there aren’t really any heroes either – perhaps the likes of Steve Bray, who has been demonstrating outside Parliament since 2016 on a fairly consistent basis.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.