Wars Begin at Calais

“Fog in the Channel; Continent cut off!”

 The Times, 22 October, 1957

Despite a rehearsal of delays and confusion over last weekend when holidaymakers had to queue for up to 24 hours at Dover to get away to the Continent, more delays were still experienced om Easter weekend. This was due, in part, to unhelpful weather, a surge in demand and Eurotunnel declining to take many coaches. Least convincing were the furious denials by Sue Braberman and her Home Office this had anything to do with Brexit. 

The closest she came was implying French custom officials were sluggish in checking passports. But, since the UK is now as foreign as North Korea in EU eyes, passports must be date-stamped, and mug shots examined.

Much though the present UK government will huff and puff denials, this is yet another consequence of Brexit and the xenophobic paranoia that drives many Home-Counties-Heartland Tories. Their credo is embodied in European Research Group stalwarts like John Redwood, IDS, Mark François and the inimitable Jacob Rees-Mogg.

To some extent, this paranoia is understandable. Southeast England has been the target of continental miscreants, from Caesar, through William and Napoleon to Adolf himself. Such repeated threats leaves cultural scars. Add in the Southeast’s folk memory as the capital and a pink-painted fifth of the globe and the breeding ground of the elite who came to rule ít, then disdain for poorer unfortunates (‘Frogs’, ‘Wops’, ‘Krauts’, always said sotto voce) becomes effortless.

Since their “End of Empah” half a century ago, this nomenklatura has been casting about for a comparable dominant role in the world, for a chance to keep “punching above our weight”. Unfortunately, despite sucking up to new superpower America and building symbols of power like nuke subs and aircraft carriers,, those that matter—in Moscow, Beijing and Delhi—are unimpressed. From their perspective, Brexit smacks more of petulance than ambition.

The recent Easter snarl-ups are just one of many consequences of 2016’s marginal decision to go it alone. On the credit side of the ledger, Liz Truss (remember her?) secured trade deals with Iceland (pop. 376,000) and Liechtenstein (pop. 38,900) and a recent t rade deal with 12 Pacific nations, most of whom already had trade deals with us. We now feel free to deal with unwanted immigrants as if we were North Korea. Of the £385,000 a day for the NHS, promised on Boris’ Big Bus, there is no sign.

Unfortunately, the debit side of the ledger shows rather more (and more consequential) entries:

  1. The Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates that the UK’s GDP is 4% lower than had Brexit not occurred.
  2. UK is the only G7 country whose economy is yet to surpass its pre-Covid level.
  3. After two years of a half-baked Northern Ireland Protocol which damaged the NI economy, the Windsor agreement has removed many trade obstacles but the NI Assembly remains dysfunctional.
  4. Research at Aston University’s School of Business found UK exports fell by an average of 22.9% in the first 15 months following Brexit.
  5. They also found that the variety of UK products exported to EU was down by 42%. This matters for the future because variety comes from smaller growth businesses, least able to deal with new bureaucracy and overheads. An example is Scottish shellfish exports, typically partial-load and time-critical, where volume has halved.
  6. Relations with France. in particular. have declined because of the UK’s inability to dissuade migrants choosing small boats to cross the Channel over the UK’s glacial system for processing asylum seekers.

“We are seeing the effect of Brexit on exports; and that is persisting. It’s not diminishing, and exports have yet to show signs of recovering. It seems that the UK can buy, but it can’t sell.”

 Professor Jun Du, Aston University

Perhaps the most galling consequence for those gung-ho Brexiteers of the Home Counties who have (or have relatives with) gites/spiti/haciendas scattered across the sunny PIGS (Portugal; Italy; Greece; Spain) is EU residency law.

Whereas before, you could hop on Easyjet on a whim, you now get your passport date-stamped. The EU tracks when you are, whether in Tallinn or Torremolinos. You may stay 90 days in any 180 and may not return for another 90. Thjis has caught many of the 2 million Brits living in the EU who did not apply for residency pre-Brexit with their Bermudas down.

Despite this catalogue of disadvantages, the denizens of the ERG and their acolytes hate the taste of humble pie and are unlikely to be swayed into revisiting the 2016 decision.

This is unfortunate for the disadvantaged areas od the UK (basically anywhere outside Southeast England), whose main business is goods, and who benefit little from London’s massive trade surplus in services.

Shame Indy has become a distant hope for Scotland when the Tories have spent over a decade offering a blizzard of reasons (beside Brexit) why that chance would be worth taking.

#1065—846 words

About davidsberry

Local ex-councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Retired in 2017.
This entry was posted in Commerce, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Wars Begin at Calais

  1. James Chamberlain says:

    Very thought provoking, I must say Scotland wouldn’t be considering a leap in the dark if considered on financial terms but of course it’s much deeper than holiday inconvenience.The world as we know has moved on from physical checks, stamps etc so equating the UK with North Korea? France and the UK are the main pillars of NATO, Germany is weak militarily.
    A slow rapprochement will take place after the bitterness and hurt of the last few years, hopefully to the benefit of both sides.
    The world is sliding into a new era, where American power to protect Europe is waning and Europe will need the UK as we will need them.

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