Five years after the vote to leave the EU the damage being done to the UK is becoming clearer every day, and not even the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic can hide it any more.
The Brexit trail of destruction
From cheesemakers and shellfish farmers who have seen sales to their biggest export market plummet due to Brexit red tape, to musicians and other service sector workers who find loss of Freedom of Movement increases the costs and delays in working in the EU, to the EU citizens who have to apply for permission to keep living in their home by the end of June, the damage is being felt across the UK.
The fishing industry was the first sector to find out that the Vote Leave Government had sold them out, but will be far from the last. More recently farmers learned that the one sided trade deal with Australia, agreed by Liz Truss and a UK Government desperate for a trade deal at any price, will allow imported meat produced below UK food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards to undercut their own high quality produce, and the Government is clear that it is the template future deals will follow.
Young people in particular have been betrayed by Brexit. Additional visas to travel to Australia are scant compensation for the loss of Freedom of Movement, the right to live, study and work in thirty countries across Europe, while the Turing scheme is a pale imitation of the Erasmus+ programme it is replacing.
Brexit threatens peace in Northern Ireland
The EU is and always has been at heart a peace project, and of all the problems caused by Brexit, the most worrying is its destabilising and polarising impact in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Protocol is the only viable option to reconcile peace in Northern Ireland with the Johnson government’s hard Brexit, yet the Johnson government unilaterally extended grace periods and failed to put in place the port infrastructure and data transfer systems they promised, all accompanied by a belligerent rhetoric that makes compromise harder to achieve and fuels sectarian tensions.
If the UK Government really wants the EU to “be pragmatic” then they should start by living up to the commitments they made. Only by doing that will they create the conditions where EU leaders feel they can trust the UK Government again.
Why the UK should align with EU Food and Farming standards
There is another step that would go a very long way towards ending all difficulties for NI-GB trade, which is for the UK to align with EU food and farming standards. Such alignment would remove the need for more than 80% of the checks required for goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, but it also has wider benefits for the UK as a whole.
Alignment with EU standards would help with many of the other problems caused by Brexit, making it easier for food producers to trade with their most important export market, and ensuring that UK farmers are not undercut by food imports that don’t meet our high standards. Alignment would also ensure that our food and environmental standards stay high, which has overwhelming support from the UK public.
A frequent objection to such alignment has been that it would rule out a trade deal with the USA, but the Biden administration has officially stated that if the UK aligns with EU food and farming standards this will not harm the prospect of a US-UK trade deal.
If there is one action you can take today it is to contact your MP and tell them that the UK must align with EU food and farming standards.
Brexit need not be our future
Paul Browne, Chair of Cambridge for Europe, comments:
“Five years on from the referendum it’s clear that Brexit is far from done. A YouGov poll published this week showed four times as many people think that Brexit is going very badly as think that it’s going very well, and that’s despite the Covid-pandemic masking some harm and before the all the grace periods end and the Brexit barriers to trade and movement kick in fully.
It will be years, perhaps decades, before the UK can rejoin the EU, but in the meantime there is a lot we can and must do to build a better and closer relationship. The Johnson Government is wrong to position the UK as a hostile rival to the EU, however tempting it is for domestic political reasons. The UK needs to work closely together with the EU to meet the key challenges of this century, whether that is taking action to prevent the looming climate disaster, or ensuring that global corporations pay their fair share of tax where they make their profits, or standing up for democracy, human rights and the rule of law around the world.
Populism and ‘One Britain, One Nation” nationalism offers a bleak future, which is why we will continue to fight for the values of respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law that the European Union embodies.”
Brexit is now part of our past and present but it needn’t be our future. Today is a good day to join the European Movement, demand a closer relationship with the EU, and build the campaign to rejoin the EU.