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The downsides

June 2024Bootstrap

A report from the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics claims that in real terms, UK exports and imports of goods are both lower now than in 2016, having shrunk by 1% and 2%, respectively. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) has reduced exports to the EU by around 30% for small firms, but it has had no effect on large firms’ exports to the EU. Many small firms (perhaps around 20,000) have stopped exporting goods to the EU entirely under the TCA.


The pro-EU think tank UK in a Changing Europe (UKICE) say Labour’s plans to improve the UK’s trading relationship with Europe will have a “minimal” impact on reducing the economic costs of Brexit. In a new report, UKICE found plans to seek “mainly technical agreements” to improve the EU-UK trade deal, including cutting red tape on food exports and visas for travelling musicians, would only “sand away at the sharpest edges” of the problems caused by Brexit.


UK fashion designers are 'decamping' to Milan according to The Guardian. Olya Kuryshchuk, the founder and editor-in-chief of 1 Granary, a fashion education platform and creative network, is doubtful that the Italian city can steal Paris’s crown. “With London rapidly losing its advantages primarily due to Brexit, Paris will stay the most important hub for independent brands as that is where the majority of the buying is happening,” she says.


The Spanish husband of a British woman who had loved in the UK since 2016 has been deported to Spain after he was detained at Leeds Bradford Airport following a trip to visit his elderly mother in Spain. Aimee Grossman’s husband Gines Rodriguez, 45, was removed from the UK last week. He had applied to live in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme but missed the June 2021 deadline and his case is thought to have been rejected due a lack of evidence outlining why it was 'late'.


A survey by the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA) has found almost half of adults in the UK have struggled to get medicine they have been prescribed. Mark Samuels, CEO of the BGMA, which represents firms producing generic – or off-patent – drugs, which account for 80% of all the drugs the NHS uses across the UK says: “Several factors are contributing to the problem and the Brexit agreement is definitely one of them.”


According to the BBC, fishermen in Devon and Cornwall feel they have been let down by Brexit and say they have lost trust in politicians ahead of the general election. They said they had wanted Brexit to deliver an increase in fish stock but instead had got more paperwork, citing the introduction of a mandatory catch app to record catches before they are landed, new vessel monitoring systems, inspections and the requirement of medical certificates. Fisherman Graham Nicholas said life post-Brexit had been difficult.


Since Britain left the EU zoos have struggled to participate in breeding swaps designed to help vulnerable and endangered species. Bernie, a spectacled bear and one of the star attractions at Chester Zoo has seen the downside of Brexit. He has been waiting for two years for the correct paperwork allowing him to move to Germany and mate with a female bear. A spokesperson for Chester Zoo said: “Prior to Brexit, this would have been in place in 6-8 weeks.”


Issues being highlighted in the airline industry include operational disruption due to crew shortages exacerbated by the post-Brexit regulatory framework, affecting many UK operators. Efforts to recruit pilots and engineers to meet demand face significant hurdles due to the UK government’s changes to immigration rules, which came into effect on 4th April 2024. Skilled Worker sponsorship remains the most common route into permanent UK employment from overseas, but increases in salary rates and thresholds under the new rules create new impediments to this option.


Support for Britain being outside the EU has fallen from 41% in 2016, to 36% in 2019 and just 24% today, according to the latest British Social Attitudes survey, The poll of 5,578 adults across the country also revealed that 71% of respondents thought the UK economy was worse off because of Brexit, an increase in the figure of 51% seen in 2019.


A report for the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) finds record numbers of voters saying they “almost never” trust governments to put country before party or politicians to tell the truth when in a tight corner. The report suggests disillusionment over Brexit among leave voters is one of the main reasons for the collapse in trust. Sir John Curtice told the BBC: “Leave supporters in particular have just basically gone back to being extremely doubtful about our politicians, about our system of government."


Inadequate conditions at UK border posts and long delays could mean drivers start turning down jobs transporting goods to the UK, according to The Guardian. A trade body representing 5,000 Dutch transport companies, said some drivers were being held at border posts for up to 20 hours. TLN described the facilities that drivers were forced to wait in as “leaving a lot to be desired” with nowhere for drivers to get food or drink. In one instance, a TLN member said €40,000 (£34,000) of plant products were rejected by a UK customer because of the damage incurred during loading and unloading at a post.


A dairy farmer from Ashbourne in Derbyshire fears agriculture could decline like the steel industry without more support from the next government. Phil Lawton told the BBC that cuts in subsidies and shrinking profits have collided with a labour shortage and pressure from climate change. Mr Lawton, who supported Brexit in 2016 but would vote against it now, said: "We didn't realise a lot of farmers in the UK were dependent on EU subsidies and suddenly they were gone. With Brexit, we have a massive labour shortage in agriculture.”

Financial Services
Stock market

Matthew Lynn, a Brexit supporting writer in The Spectator, has admitted the London Stock Exchange is “in serious trouble.” He says a statement by the CEO of Octopus Energy, the largest electricity supplier in the UK, that the company may not list in London could “accelerate the City’s decline into global irrelevance.” Octopus could join the growing number of companies who have chosen to exit London since Brexit. Mr Lynn says the number of companies quoted in London has fallen from 2,700 in 1996, to just 1,100 at the end of 2022, a fall of 60%.


Research by the pollsters IPSOS suggests that Brexit is the most-cited reason for declining public services. Three-quarters of respondents believed services are worse since the last general election in 2019, with a third (31%) blaming Brexit as a cause – more than the outbreak of Covid-19 (27%) in 2020. For Labour and Lib Dem voters, Brexit is believed to be the second leading cause of the decline in public services, at 48% and 44% respectively.

Northern Ireland

A survey by Ulster Bank shows Northern Ireland’s economic performance compared favourably with other UK regions, with NI topping the league table for both output and employment. The province continues to have access to the EU single market. UB chief economist Richard Ramsey said: "The four months since the return of the Northern Ireland Executive have witnessed a strong private sector performance, and this shows no signs of slowing, indeed quite the opposite, with the pace of output, new orders and employment all accelerating in May.”

Border checks

A driver for the Italian haulage company Marini, was held at the Sevington border control post in Ashford, Kent for 55 hours while his load of plants was inspected. CEO Vicenzo Marini described the incident was “surreal” and said the new checks and custom requirements since Brexit had made sending goods to the UK much more problematic. The company, which has been transporting goods to the UK since the 1980s, was now considering abandoning its UK routes due to the new controls, as well as fears among drivers around migrants entering their lorries.


Martin McTague, national chair Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has said Britain’s decision to leave the EU has impacted some small businesses negatively when exporting to the EU. He told The Independent: “What we are seeing in specific areas is a really big drop-off for exporters. Location is very important and a lot of small businesses don’t have the resources to take on the distant markets. Vicinity is important. A lot of them have been put off by the additional burden that Brexit has caused.


The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has said the UK's post-Brexit replacement for the EU's chemical regulation regime is inefficient, lacking in long-term focus and poor value for money. The RSC is urging the next government to invest in a dedicated national chemicals agency. The present system falls on several government departments and agencies leading to duplicated effort, fragmentation and confusion, according to a new RSC report with the result that industry and the UK’s global standing are suffering.


Total Media Group, a behavioural planning agency based in London, has been acquired by Germany's Mediaplus, Europe’s largest independent media agency. TMG chairman, Guy Sellers said Brexit in 2016 made the company consider its credibility with European clients, asking: “Why would you appoint a London media agency to your European media when they’re not even in Europe?” Mr. Sellers admits that if it hadn’t been for Brexit, the acquisition “certainly wouldn’t have happened the same way at all — it might have taken longer”.

Northern Ireland

The EU is set to phase out artificial smoke flavourings over the next two years after its food safety authority said toxicity concerns, including cancer risks, were 'either confirmed or can't be ruled out.'  It means that crisp makers in Northern Ireland will also be subject to the ban under the terms of the Windsor Framework, potentially creating a 'smoky bacon border' with Britain, according to The Daily Mail.