The day was 23 June 2016. It was warm. It was a Thursday. All around the country, people nipped to polling stations to decide whether they wanted Britain to remain in the European Union – as it had for over 40 years – or go it alone.
And as people woke up to go to work the following day, they did so to the news that Britain’s international relations with its closest neighbours would be changing irreversibly.
“F***”, said 48 per cent of Brits. “Yay”, said the other 52 per cent.
Of course, those who pushed for Britain to leave the EU believed it would be an overwhelmingly positive policy and one that we would celebrate for years to come. When people suggested there may be some negative consequences, they rolled their eyes at the ‘scaremongering’ Remainers who wished to ‘trample’ on democracy. The message, overwhelmingly, was Brexit would be great. It was time to get it done.
Six years on, and three years to the day when we officially left the EY, the consequences of Brexit are still unfolding slowly as Britain goes through puberty, shunning its neighbours and redefining itself as an ‘independent’ and ‘sovereign’ nation.
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And unfortunately, some of the alarms Remainers sounded back in 2016, ones that Brexiteers ignored, are proving to ring true.
1. Food shortages and price increases
When Britain left the EU, some people stockpiled foods fearing Brexit would impact trade with some European countries. Brexiteers laughed as they tucked into their Spam and potatoes. “Food would be fine!” they claimed. Two years later, the government created the role ‘food supplies minister’, not alarming anyone at all, as a no-deal Brexit seemed more likely, and in 2019, Wetherspoons ran out of bacon. Now, deal or no deal, even the Brexit-loving Daily Express reports on food shortages caused by Brexit: “Worker shortages are being fuelled by European employees returning home due, with new visas needed for unskilled workers,” they admitted last year.
And in 2022 it was found Brexit added £6bn to UK food bills in two years.
2. Trouble at the Irish border
One major concern raised about Brexit was that it would flush progress made to reduce tensions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland down the toilet. Former prime minister Tony Blair said a hard border would be against the Good Friday Agreement, for instance.
This April, we saw days of unrest as people protested about the Northern Ireland Protocol on Brexit, which puts a de facto border in the Irish sea between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain and places checks on goods traveling from Britain to Northern Ireland. Over 90 police officers were injured and one of Brexit’s biggest fanboys even suggested that leaving the EU was of consequence to this:
Ben Habib does a Kate Hoey. "The cause of the violence, in Northern Ireland is not brexit... the cause of the viol… https://t.co/jq4ggh3YQF— Haggis_UK 🇬🇧 🇪🇺 (@Haggis_UK 🇬🇧 🇪🇺) 1618052510
3. Businesses relocating
After the Brexit referendum, people voiced concerns that some businesses may relocate to escape negative consequences like taxes, extra red tape, and the inability to trade freely and hire EU staff. Brexiteers dismissed these concerns but as of 2021, 440 financial services firms have done a runner, according to the think tank New Financial. Meanwhile, in 2019, Barclays moved £166bn of its clients’ assets to the Irish capital, stating that it could not wait any longer to implement Brexit contingency plans. Even hoover mogul James Dyson, who supported Brexit, has moved his headquarters to Singapore and a sports clothes company said it was headed to Romania "to survive and grow".
Samantha Cameron, the wife of former PM David, also revealed that her fashion brand was heavily hit by Brexit. Speaking to the BBC, Cameron said that the business was experiencing “frustrating teething issues” adding: “If you’re bringing goods into the country from outside the UK, and then trying to sell them back into Europe – that currently is challenging and difficult.”
Challenging. Difficult. They didn’t splash that on the side of a bus.
4. Racism against minority groups
Concerns that people advanced Brexit due to xenophobia and racism were voraciously denied by Brexiteers who claimed Remainers were out of touch with the will of ordinary people. While it would be ridiculous to suggest that everyone who voted for the policy did so to break British ties with people from other countries, what we do know is that after the vote occurred, so did hate crime incidents.
In 2019, 71 per cent of people from ethnic minorities reported having faced racial discrimination, compared with 58 per cent in January 2016, according to polling data.
A recent LSE report about the issue said: “The referendum altered the dominant social norm by publicly revealing that anti-immigrant views across the country were more widespread than was previously believed, and this caused the norm to shift, rendering anti-immigrant attitudes more acceptable”.
5. British Fish For British People
Brexit has given fish an unexpected amount of press over the last few years.
Many proponents of Brexit claimed it was incredibly important for Britain to reclaim its fish, fundamentally disregarding the fact that fish swim, and therefore don’t stay in one country’s waters...
Anyway, fish was on the menu for a lot of Brexiteers, until they realised the Brexit trade deal was a bit, ahem, fishy.
In 2021, then foreign secretary Dominic Raab claimed the Brexit trade agreement was “a great deal” for the fishing industry after outrage from fishing companies, who said additional red tape and delays have left them unable to reach European export markets.
Even June Mummery, fish obsessive and former Brexit Party MEP realised Brexit was not good for fish after all!
Oh my. June Mummery – champion of the "Brexit will be great for fishing" cause – has finally realised that Brexit… https://t.co/RqPG83w1D2— Sam Bright (@Sam Bright) 1611319410
Who cod have thought it?
6. ‘Oven ready’ Brexit
All this talk of fish has got us hungry, and speaking of hungry, remember when Brexiteers claimed it would be easy to negotiate a deal with the EU following the referendum and there would not be years of messing about? Former UKIP leader Gerard Batten once said: “A trade deal with the EU could be sorted out in an afternoon over a cup of coffee.”
Five years of messing about later and Brexit proved to be more like cooking something with one small match than Johnson’s ‘so-called ‘oven ready’ deal.
Alas, Brexit finally got “done” in January 2021. Brexiteers gave themselves rounds of applause for securing the deal, but the years of uncertainty that preceded it, as we have seen, caused firms to leave the UK.
7. Disruption for EU citizens living in the UK
From not being able to access the online forms to apply for settled status, to being denied settled status incorrectly, the Home Office is presiding over a nightmare for EU citizens living in the UK. Campaign group the3million, which represents the three million EU nationals who live in the UK, continues to warn people about the discrimination this group now faces.
8. Ex-pats living in Spain
A consequence of being outside the EU is that ex-pats living in certain parts of Europe, such as Spain, can’t just live there as they please for the rest of their lives. Brits who don’t take Spanish citizenship now have to leave the country every 90 days and spend 180 days back in the UK to avoid being deemed ‘illegal immigrants.’
This inevitability of ending British people’s rights to live and work in the EU was dismissed back in 2019 by pro-Brexit campaign group Leave.EU who called it another part of “Project Fear” and claimed that the Spanish PM had said that Brexit would not affect ex-pats.
Er lads - @LeaveEUOfficial https://t.co/1FhprD9zF8— Otto English (@Otto English) 1617718165
9. Queues in Dover
Queues in Dover caused disruption last year and French officials blamed Brexit because of post-Brexit checks at the border which came into force in 2021.
Rod McKenzie, executive director for policy and public affairs for the Road Haulage Association, released a statement saying that post-Brexit border checks "mean friction where none existed" while the public spending watchdog found that there have been more border delays since Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
10. Bad trade deals
People said our trade would improve when we left the EU but it was all smoke and mirrors given a former Tory minister has admitted a Brexit deal he backed at the time is "not actually a very good deal".
George Eustice, who was Defra minister under Boris Johnson, said "the UK gave away far too much for far too little in return" with the Australia deal.
"Since I now enjoy the freedom of the backbenches, I no longer have to put such positive gloss on what was agreed," he said.
He said that “unless we recognise the failures that the Department for International Trade (DIT) made during the Australia negotiations, we won’t be able to learn the lessons for future negotiations” like the ones happening with Canada.
11. A generally bad economy
Brexiteers were delighted with how good the economy would be post-Brexit but what actually happened? The economy got worse.
Speaking to Bloomberg Michael Saunders, a former Bank of England policymaker, warned that the policy is having a terrible impact on the British economy and implied austerity measures are only being considered because of it.
"If we hadn't had Brexit we probably wouldn't be talking about an austerity budget this week, the need for tax rises, spending cuts wouldn't be there," he said last year.
12. Increased red tape
Brexit is making UK firms face "increased costs, paperwork and border delays" a group of MPs said in 2022.
According to a report from parliament's spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), it is "clear" that leaving the EU is having an impact on UK trade volumes and this could get worse as new import controls come in.
"One of the great promises of Brexit was freeing British businesses to give them the headroom to maximise their productivity and contribution to the economy - even more desperately needed now on the long road to recovery from the pandemic," said PAC chair Meg Hillier.
"Yet the only detectable impact so far is increased costs, paperwork and border delays."
Meanwhile, according to Adam French, a Which? consumer rights expert who spoke to the Observer,new rules on VAT and customs declarations “have created a greater burden of customs paperwork for consumers and couriers alike.
“You now have to attach customs declaration forms to anything you send, very clearly describing what it is and where it has originated from.”
13. Post-Brexit schemes don't pay dividends
A post-Brexit scheme to attract academics and other leading figures to the UK has flopped.
At the end of last year it was reported that in the six months since it opened in May, a visa route open to fast track Nobel laureates and other prize winners in science, engineering, humanities and medicine – enabling them to live and work in the UK without having to fulfil other criteria has drifted past like a tumbleweed, according to Freedom of Information requests submitted by New Scientist magazine.
The Home Office previously said the prestigious award route would “allow applicants who hold a qualifying prize to fast-track the endorsement application and instead make a single visa application”.
Home secretary Priti Patel also hailed it as a way of allowing “the best and brightest” to come to the UK. She said: “These important changes will give them the freedom to come and work in our world-leading arts, sciences, music, and film industries as we build back better. This is exactly what our new point-based immigration system was designed for – attracting the best and brightest based on the skills and talent they have, not where they’ve come from.”
We guess people felt differently.
Good stuff, then.
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