Britain buys most of its food for the EU countries, cost of which has increased after Brexit.
Sunny Hundal, The Independent
I don’t want to ruin your morning, but yesterday the governor of the Bank of Englandwarned of an “apocalypse” in this country. Literally, that was the word he used. “[The issue] that I am going to sound rather apocalyptic about is food,” he said. The governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, sat in front of MPs to talk about why Britain faced such a sharply rising cost of living crisis. The war in Ukraine has led to an international shortage of essential foods such as wheat and cooking oils, he pointed out, which would be very dire for poorer people in Britain. The invasion of Ukraine has also raised energy prices – another problem largely out of our control.
Now, I don’t want to mention the B-word, or even write about it – I’ve seen how angry it has made people over the last few years – but we have little choice but to face up to reality. Brexit is unavoidably and certainly making Britain’s rising cost of living worse. And our silence over the issue is compounding the problem.
Frankly, I’ve tried to stay away from the issue as much as possible since 2019. But it’s unavoidable. If we want to improve things we need to talk about the B-word. The problem is that Labour doesn’t want to talk about it, because it’s worried that will alienate Leave voters – and the Conservatives don’t want to admit their mistakes. And we are all paying the price. In the worst cost of living crisis this country has faced for decades – according to the Bank of England itself – we are unwilling to talk about the elephant in the room.
Here’s how Brexit is worsening the crisis: the European Union was – and still is – our biggest trading partner. We buy most of our food and goods from the EU, and without frictionless trade – i.e. without checks at borders and differing regulations – the cost of trade has gone up. And that means the price of everything has gone up more than it would otherwise. Moreover, our trade with the EU has slumped sharply – hurting British jobs.
Prices are not rising as sharply across the EU and it is set to recover faster. Its central bank isn’t going around warning of an impending apocalypse. To be sure, the EU also has problems with the rising cost of energy and food, but it’s simply not as bad as ours.
The other problem is the shortage of workers. Brexit led to an exodus of European workers, which has led to staffing shortages and fewer people who are paying taxes and spending money here. That also hurts our economy. British companies that cannot get workers cannot operate properly. And with our unemployment rate at a historic low, jobs are squeezed already. Since we no longer have freedom of movement, people can’t easily come here to fill those jobs, either.
I’m not saying we should immediately rejoin the EU. That is not going to happen anytime soon; the Referendum and the 2019 election cannot be reversed. But we can improve a bad situation, or stop it from getting worse.
The Conservatives are on the brink of a trade war with the EU, to break a deal that they themselves said was “oven-ready”. This was the one that Boris Johnson himself took to the EU and said it would protect our interests. If the issue over Northern Ireland is not resolved quickly or amicably, prices for everything will go up even further. We might even have food shortages.
Yet instead of trying to make it easier for goods and food to get here easily, to help people with rising prices, the government is making it harder.
You would think that the Labour Party would at least be willing to raise the issue and offer ways we can improve the situation. You’d be wrong. But Labour leader Keir Starmer apparently feels that to talk about Brexit is to associate himself with a failed mission to stop it – and seems to want the topic to be dropped. And so the Labour party is also completely silent on the subject.
“I do not feel at all happy about this; this is a bad situation to be in,” Bailey said yesterday. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. So here we are, stuck between a Conservative government making everything worse due to its incompetence and ideological agenda, and a Labour party weakened by years of defeat. The ordinary people of this country are paying the price, because no one wants to raise the B-word.
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