For weeks I have been asking various Internet forums why people voted Leave. I have never had a reply except for one which is best politely paraphrased as ‘Don’t you know, stupid’. Well, I don’t know why.
But I can see what they have voted for:
1. Higher food prices. Fruit and vegetable growers and producers in the UK rely heavily on cheap labour from EU countries. There is plenty of evidence that many of these workers are not returning this year. The farmers and producers say that they cannot get British labour to work for the same wages and the same long hours and will have to pay more. Result: higher food prices and/or food rotting in the fields.
2. Rising prices. The 15-20% fall in the value of the pound the day after the referendum is hitting the price of everything imported, now that the period of currency hedging used by many businesses has run out. It would be worse if the cost of oil (priced in US dollars) had not fallen. Result: more households in poverty.
3. Loss of single market access which takes 44% of UK exports and is on our doorstep. A trade deal with the EU will mean keeping EU regulations which define the specifications for items which are traded. Each trade deal with another country requires specifications to be defined just for that deal. Result: higher prices and less choice in the shops.
4. Problems in the supply chain. Some parts for manufactured goods and cars are made in other EU countries. Over 5000 trucks carrying many kinds of goods pass through the port of Dover every day with little paperwork now. Outside the EU, customs checks will be imposed and tariffs charged on these items. Result: paperwork delays; international businesses moving their operations into another EU country.Result: more UK unemployment. One example: BMW employ 4500 people at their Mini plant in Oxford, but they now are looking to build their electric Mini in Germany.
5. Higher airfares. The EU and US have an Open Skies agreement which has freed airlines from many previous restrictions on where they can fly. This has led to very cheap airfares across Europe. Dublin-based Ryanair are already planning their schedules for 2019 cutting out many flights from the UK, and Easyjet are looking for a new base within the EU. Result: higher fares and fewer flights.
6. No compensation for delayed flights. At present an EU regulation allows delayed air travellers to claim compensation of up to 600 euros for delays over 3 hours. Result: delayed travellers will have to pay for extra food and accommodation etc.
7. Roaming charges. A new EU directive removes mobile phone roaming charges within in the EU from mid-June 2017. Result: roaming charges will be re-imposed.
8. Loss of protection for the environment. 3 examples here: 1. Clean beaches. These are protected by an EU regulation which ensures that beaches are not polluted by waste and sewage which I clearly remember seeing floating in the sea when I was young. 2. Clean water. Surely nobody in the UK wants a repeat of what happened in Flint, Michigan where the water supply has been seriously contaminated because of lax controls. 3. Fracking. A particular issue in Upper Nidderdale where I live and where the geology is suitable. The Conservatives plan to copy all EU laws and regulations into UK law and then unpick and rewrite them. There are so many that they want to use a system which dates back to the absolute monarchy of Henry VIII to enable some of this to be done by a committee not by acts of parliament. Result: influence from big business to serve their own ends with no scrutiny and fewer environmental controls (a bonfire of regulations).
9. Loss of funding for scientific and medical research where the UK is a world leader. This is not just the funding but revenue from any spin-off businesses from the research. Result: loss of status and reputation of UK universities, and, with loss of talented staff, poorer education for the next generation.
10. Loss of revenue from international students. Numbers are already down. Result: loss of an estimated £26bn per year to the economy, and loss of reputation.
11. A downturn in financial services which are about 11% of the economy. One example: J P Morgan have just bought an office block in Dublin and plan to move several thousand people there from the UK so that they can keep the EU passporting rights for banking.Result: loss of revenue from taxes, and money spent by financiers in restaurants, shops, retail etc.
12. Increased need for benefits payments for those who have been made unemployed. Result: higher taxes for everyone else.
13. Fewer safety guarantees for nuclear fuel which the UK gets through the EU agency Euratom. Result: brings the unthinkable a bit nearer.
14. A divisive society. The UK has had a reputation for being tolerant and fair. I am appalled at the vitriol directed to immigrants which I have found in the forums of the Brexit-supporting tabloids. It is disappointing that so many people fomenting this anger do not appear to know that half the immigrants in the UK are not from the EU and are nothing to do with Brexit, and that many of the people perceived to be immigrants were actually born in the UK. Result: the potential backlash is frightening.
Common sense clearly indicates that any deal with the EU will be worse for the UK than being a member. Leaving the single market and the customs union is bound to lead to job losses. The UK is apparently now at the back of the queue for a trade deal with the US, which is in my view a good thing as I would not want to see US-style healthcare here. But chasing trade deals with much smaller economies halfway round the world doesn’t make sense either.
It would appear that immigration was a factor in the referendum vote. It is now clear that the NHS, care homes, and the construction and hospitality industries cannot function effectively without immigrants from the EU. Nurses from other EU countries are leaving just at the time when applications for nursing courses are down 23% because the government has cancelled the bursary scheme for nurses’ training.
Finally, the Tory and Labour election manifestos appear to have been written for a parallel universe where Brexit does not exist. Promises are made but nobody can predict how bad the downturn in the economy will be or how much money will be in the public purse. One thing is certain: in the last few weeks the downturn in the economy has already begun. The turkey vote is getting nearer to Christmas.
PS If you want to read more about the likely impact of Brexit on various areas of the economy and industry, I strongly recommend Richard Corbett’s blog.