Brexit: Third Act

My Sunday article, just published on Impakter, I found a great featured image with Munch’s famous “Scream” (Creative Commons, photo by David Holt) and here’s the title:

Brexit: The Point of No Return? What Can Be Done?

And the opening:

Are we approaching the point of no return with Brexit? And is there anything that can be done? It can’t be proved, but it looks suspiciously like Prime Minister Theresa May is deliberately engineering drama in order to get her “deal” – the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU – approved by the U.K. Parliament.  She seems to be pushing the clock to the last minute before midnight of 29 March – Brexit’s deadline, the date she set herself by triggering Article 50, now almost two years ago.

She’s aiming for that date like a straight arrow, telling Parliament that she sees no possibility of a second referendum. That’s something she has said many times over the past year: There will be no second Brexit referendum. And even less new elections. A proposed cross-party amendment to Theresa May’s Brexit plan calling for a “people’s vote” was ditched earlier last week because of lack of Labour party support.

Poor Britain, one could feel sorry that at this crucial juncture, the U.K.’s two leading politicians are clearly anti-Europeans and don’t have at heart the welfare of their fellow citizens. They are not the kind of people who will revise their opinions in the light of emerging evidence that Brexit is a very bad idea.

Theresa May started in the Remainers’ camp when she was still in Cameron’s government, but after Brexit, she saw her opportunity to become Prime Minister and she quickly jumped to the other side. Clearly, she won’t let go – not until she has Brexit where she wants, beyond the point of no return. As to Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, he has been a Euro-skeptic all his life and he’s not about to change his opinions, even if Brexit in fact hurts the working classes the most.

Bloomberg’s Brussels Edition calls it “Brexit Fog” as no deal for an orderly withdrawal is yet in sight. As far as the EU is concerned, the deal struck with Prime Minister Theresa May last month is the only possible one, nothing else can be envisaged. May is currently trying to win over Labour Party rebels to her deal and more generally, laying the groundwork for a possible delay on Brexit. At the time of writing, nobody knows whether she can succeed or not.

Brexit is unquestionably the most damaging foreign policy move the U.K. has ever contemplated in its whole History. With Brexit now approaching the point of no return, the costs of a “no deal Brexit” are becoming painfully clear to everyone.

No-Deal Brexit Damage to the U.K.

The U.K. food industry is in a panic, expecting a food emergency to explode after March 29 when all the borders with the EU will close down. On 28 January,  UK food retail chief executives issued a “no-deal Brexit” warning in a letter that was also signed by Marks & Spencer managers. They noted:

“Our supply chains are closely linked to Europe – nearly one third of the food we eat in the UK comes from the EU. In March, the situation is more acute as UK produce is out of season: 90% of our lettuces, 80% of our tomatoes and 70% of our soft fruit [are] sourced from the EU at that time of year. As this produce is fresh and perishable, it needs to be moved quickly from farms to our stores,”

The problem is the “just-in-time” food supply chain. If it is disrupted, it will be a disaster foretold.

Food retailers are stockpiling food where possible but all the available frozen and chilled storage space in the U.K is already in use and there is little further general warehousing space. The UK authorities might decide not to check products at the border, but the French have already announced they will enforce sanitary and customs checks at Calais as they are forced to do on all exports from the EU to outside countries. As a result, freight trade at Calais and Dover is expected to be reduced by as much as 87%.

In short, food will cost more and the poorest will be hit the hardest.

But food is not the only industry hit by a no-deal Brexit – all areas, from fashion to cars are going to hurt, and the working classes in particular will feel the pain as factories shut down and jobs move abroad.

The problem is that for 30 years, industry supply chains have been built to fit into the EU system. To repurpose them will be a gargantuan task, made all the more difficult as the U.K.’s free entry into the vast EU market closes up, discouraging investors and extra-European manufacturers like the Japanese who have used the U.K. as a door to jump into Europe.

The so-called “Ireland backstop” is another potentially catastrophic problem. The whole of Ireland, North and South, does not want the clock to be turned back to a state of war. In the words of Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney:

“It is vitally important that politicians in Westminster understand the overwhelming wish across society in Northern Ireland not to return to borders and division of time past”.

No-Deal Brexit Damage to the E.U.

The damage will be far more serious than is commonly thought.

To read the rest and find out how badly it will go for the EU, click here.

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