Brexit Fantasy Collides with the Brexit Reality

As the March 29, 2019 deadline looms for the UK to leave the European Union, increased fears of a “no deal” Brexit have caused GDP growth forecasts to be reduced for the second time this year, down to 1.3%., and manufacturing growth has hit a 25-month low.

Analysts predict the industry’s situation is likely to worsen over the coming months.  Andrew Wishart, an economist at Capital Economics, said there was little sign of a recovery in the manufacturing sector.  “The main reason for the fall in the headline orders was a contraction in export orders, suggesting that the possibility of a no deal exit from the EU in March is starting to weigh more heavily on the sector,” he said.

Hopes of a breakthrough at this week’s European Leaders Summit in Brussels have been dashed as both sides failed to strike a deal, leaving major issues unresolved.  As ministers are becoming increasingly anxious about the risk of a no deal Brexit and the impact the continued uncertainty is having on the British economy, they are hoping to convince EU leaders to reconvene again for a summit in November.  Brexit secretary Dominic Raab told cabinet members that “November is the final realistic moment to switch to full-blown no deal planning if the government is to be ready by March”.

One of the biggest concerns facing Britain is the uncertainty surrounding cross-border trade with the EU in the event of a no deal Brexit.  Up until March 29, UK business can move goods freely between any of the 28 EU member states.  If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the free circulation of goods between the UK and EU would end.  Businesses conducting trade with the EU would be required to follow customs procedures for each of the individual EU member states and would be responsible for filing import or export declarations and paying for customs duties.  A no deal Brexit would not only mean delays at the border due to customs checks, but also trade tariffs would likely raise the price of goods.

The biggest issue around cross-border trade is the land border between Northern Ireland, which will remain with the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which remains a part of the EU.  The two sides are trying to negotiate a “backstop” so that the border can stay open even if negations fail to produce a deal.

What is a “backstop”?  Both the UK and the EU want to avoid a “hard border” (infrastructure and physical checks) between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but have not yet agreed on how.  The backstop, as described by Prime Minister Theresa May, is an “insurance policy “which would protect the open border between the two Irish countries in the event that the UK leaves the EU without having reached a deal.

While uncertainty over Brexit is causing a lack of confidence for importers and exporters, a major concern is the impact Brexit will have on the hauler industry.  The EU issued a notice last month which stated “a driving license issued by the UK will no longer be recognized by the (EU) member states” in the event of a no deal Brexit.  This means that British motorists would need to apply for a new international driving permit in order to drive anywhere in the EU.  Drivers would also be required to obtain additional insurance while in the EU.

According to the Lord Ashcroft Election Day Poll, one third of voters said the main reason they voted for Brexit was to regain control over immigration and its own borders.  The question now is what will happen to the EU citizens living in the UK?  Prime Minister May has agreed that the three million EU nationals living in the UK can remain if they apply for settled status.  But will EU citizens choose to stay now that Britain has closed its borders to foreigners, and how will this affect the UK’s ability to attract and retain lorry drivers?

Hundreds of Thousands Gather in Protest for Final Say on Brexit

Approximately 700,000 protestors marched through central London to Parliament Square on Saturday, October 20th to oppose Britain’s impending exit from the European Union and to demand a new referendum.  Organizers of the People’s Vote March say another public vote is needed because new facts have come out since the Brexit referendum vote in 2016 about the complexity and cost of Britain’s exit from the EU.  The march also drew support from a number of MPs who want a fresh vote.

Prime Minister May has already ruled out another public Brexit vote.  There are substantial political and practical obstacles to a new vote, and time is running out.

But, that didn’t stop the crowds on Saturday from demanding one.  Among them was Lord of the Rings actor Andy Serkis.  Serkis said he believes there should be a second referendum “now that people are more informed.”

Alastair Campbell, campaign supporter and former Director of Communications at Downing Street, said “The Brexit that was promised, and the Brexit that was campaigned successfully for, doesn’t exist.”  Andrew Adonis, a member of the Labour Party of the House of Lords said, “Voters will neither forgive nor forget if (lawmakers) allow this miserable Brexit to proceed without people being given the final say.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the BBC, “What’s clear is that the only options on the table now from the prime minister are a bad Brexit deal or no deal whatsoever…  That’s a million miles away from what was promised 2 ½ years ago.”  Khan said Saturday’s protest was a “march for the future” for young Britons, especially for those who were too young to vote in the 2016 referendum.

The crowd that gathered was so large that not everyone could fit in the square, and demonstrators spilled out onto nearby streets.  The marchers, who hope that people power will persuade the government to hold a new referendum, will have to wait and see if the government will listen.

For more information about Brexit, visit the BBC News website to review their article Brexit:  All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU by click here.




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