It’s been a full year since the UK formally exited the Brexit transition period, which ended on 1 January 2021and so fully left the European Single Market and Customs Union. We have had a full year to experience those much touted sunlit uplands that Brexit supporters insisted that leaving the EU was going to deliver. Many businesses, particularly smaller businesses have effectively given up on trying to deal with the additional paperwork and delays that exporting to EU countries entails, the shellfish industry in Scotland has been particularly badly hit. Jamie McMillan, managing director of Loch Fyne Seafarms, has told The National newspaper that his company has lost 60% of his market after soaring costs forced him to stop selling premium shellfish to Europe.
It’s on a much smaller scale of course, but I have likewise had to stop sending copies of my Gaelic map to buyers in the EU. Not only have postal costs to EU destinations skyrocketed, but I was finding that the maps were taking weeks or months to arrive, and when they did buyers were faced with paying a customs surcharge plus additional fees which was greater than the original cost of the map. When I mentioned this to the woman in our local post office she said that several local small businesses have also stopped sending their products to EU destinations.
I’m certainly not claiming that my inability to sell Gaelic maps to EU customers because of Brexit is comparable to the loss of revenues and jobs suffered by companies like Loch Fyne Seafarms, but my experience must shared by countless small businesses and home based producers across the UK, just as it is shared by other small producers in this part of South Ayrshire. For every story of a business in trouble because of Brexit that we hear about because it results in job losses and losses in income large enough to attract the attention of the press, there must be hundreds and thousands of small producers who have quietly given up on trying to sell to Europe because transactions which were once as straightforward as selling to a person in the next town are now made expenisive and time consuming nightmares of additional costs and extra paperwork.
And now this month, producers in the EU will start to experience similar difficulties in sending their goods to the UK. From 1 January 2022, EU businesses sending goods to Britain will need to supply full customs declarations while traders will also have to prove that goods are allowed to enter tariff-free under rules of origin requirements as of now, importers must make a full customs declaration on goods entering the UK from the EU or other countries and are no longer able to delay completing full import customs declarations for up to 175 days as they had been able to do before the new regulations came into force as the bells heralded the arrival of the New Year.
It is highly likely that many small and specialist producers, for example producers of artisanal foodstuffs, will simply decide that exporting to the UK is no longer worth the effort. Research carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found that a third of small business importers in the UK were unaware of the changes, while among those who did know this was coming, only one in four was prepared for them.
Martin McTague, vice-chair of the FSB told Reuters news agency that the switch to import checks was likely to cause significant disruption at a time when trade is already being hit by covid supply chain problems and labour shortages.
A survey by the British Chambers of Commerce in October 2021 showed that 45% of companies were finding it very or relatively difficult to trade goods with the EU, up from 30% in January 2021 when the Brexit deal came into effect. Far from getting used to the changes, many businesses in the UK are simply giving up on trying to do business with customers in the EU. And it’s not finished yet, additional veterinary checks will come in for food imports in July next year.
When something is attained at great cost, like the immense burden Brexit has imposed upon businesses and individuals, there have to be great commensurate gains in order for the cost to have been worth it. Yet the best that this misbegotten Conservative Government of chancers, cheats and charlatans can manage to cite as benefits of Brexit are blue passports, crown symbols on pint glasses, and imperial measurements. Those trade deals on favourable terms that the rest of the world was supposedly queuing up to offer the UK are notable mostly for their absence. Instead we have exports falling of a cliff and since British citizens no longer enjoy freedom of movement, as part of it measures to slow the spread of covid, France has banned British citizens from entering France, even those who have residence in another EU country and who merely wish to travel through France in order to get home. But hey! Blue passports.
Brexit is what defines this Conservative government, “Getting Brexit done” is what the Conservatives proudly insisted that they were elected to do when Boris Johnson won a majority of 80 seats in the Commons on the back of 43.6% of the popular vote, thanks to the unfair first past the post voting system so beloved of Westminster politicians. Yet Brexit has delivered so many obvious downsides and so few – many would say no – advantages – that the Johnson regime recently banned civil servants from mentioning Brexit, Brexit has become a taboo word, an unmentionable unpleasantness, like Michael Gove, or the state of Will ‘n’ Kate’s marriage. If Brexit had been a resounding and unqualified success, Johnson, Gove, and the rest of them would be instructing civil servants to shout about it from the rooftops and shoehorn the B word into every government press release.
Scotland never wanted any of this. This country voted to remain in the EU, as the Better Together parties promised in 2014. At every election since the EU referendum, Scotlanfd has voted for parties opposed to Brexit and has rejected the Tories and their Brextrenism, but zero allowances have been made for Scotland by Johnson and his party. Instead the Tories have used the Brexit Scotland rejected as an excuse to attack the devolution settlement that Scotland did vote for. The UK can no longer meet the basic democratic will of the people of Scotland, we are paying the price in the hollowing out of our democracy, in our freedoms and in our jobs. This will figure large in the case for independence to be made this coming year.
Johnson is yet to learn the true cost of Brexit. It’s going to spell the end of the UK and an independent Scotland that determines its own relationship with the nations of Europe and the rest of the world.
I hope you all had a great and relaxing Christmas and New Year. As we move into 2022 we can expect to see the independence campaign ramp up a gear as the Scottish Government moves to lay the groundwork for a second referendum. Making that vital case for independence and attacking the Conservatives and apologists for British nationalism is going to remain the focus of this blog, not attacking other independence supporters for “doing it wrong” or getting sidetracked into divisive issues which are not directly related to independence.
On a personal note, I’d like to thank the blog moderators for keeping things going while I took some much needed time off. I have now started on new medication which is helping to relieve the muscle pains and spasms I’ve been experiencing and which is helping me to get a more restful sleep at night. I am coming to terms with the fact that the stroke has left me with permanent disabilities and limitations, but within those limitations I’m determined to do all I can to help bring about an independent Scotland where we can safely file the antics of Johnson, Rees-Mogg, and Gove under “somebody else’s problem”.
My Gaelic maps of Scotland are still available, a perfect gift for any Gaelic learner or just for anyone who likes maps. The maps cost £15 each plus £7 P&P within the UK. You can order by sending a PayPal payment of £22 to email@example.com (Please remember to include the postal address where you want the map sent to).
I am now writing the daily newsletter for The National, published every day from Monday to Friday in the late afternoon. So if you’d like a daily dose of dug you can subscribe to The National, Scotland’s only pro-independence newspaper, here: Subscriptions from The National
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