Brexit has been an accident waiting to happen for the UK trucking industry, as became clear this month. Unfortunately, things seem likely to get worse rather than better, as immigration rules continue to tighten.
We can all remember the thousands of lorries parked up outside Dover around Christmas, as initial Brexit-related problems began to emerge. Fast forward to this week, and UK petrol stations have been running short of supplies due to a lack of EU drivers – whilst Calais continued to operate as normal.
The issue, of course, is that immigration was a key issue for many Leave voters. And so it is no surprise that labour shortages are continuing to develop. As The Times has reported:
“300 million daffodils were left to rot in the ground this year due to a lack of pickers caused by Brexit and the pandemic”
Many other farmers have reported similar problems. And they expect 2022 to be worse – potentially much worse, as demand continues to recover after Covid.
And then there are the ongoing problems over N Ireland. The UK government seems set on trying to renegotiate the Protocol – which it signed and recommended to the electorate in the December 2019 election. And DUP Ministers are now threatening to resign over the issue.
Nobody knows how the situation might develop, but there was already talk in the summer that the UK stance might end up provoking a trade war with the EU. And Ireland’s RTE television last week reported:
“The European Union is likely to challenge on legal grounds any move by the UK to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, RTÉ News understands. Furthermore, the EU could resort to raising tariffs on UK products in retaliation, which officials say is provided for under the EU-UK free trade agreement.”
We can all hope that this is just a game of bluff and counter-bluff which will end with a handshake and a return to business as usual.
But the history of the Brexit negotiations since 2016 suggests the problems go much deeper. The UK government seems quite happy to prioritise political issues – even at the expense of the economy. It was, after all, Boris Johnson who replied to corporate concerns over Brexit by saying “f*ck business”.