Shortage of labor in different sectors, increase in food prices -which have contributed to the skyrocketing inflation in the country-, political instability and tensions in Northern Ireland, are part of the balance three years after the divorce. But its true impact will be seen in the long term.
Brexit, that phenomenon that continues to divide the British, has meant an earthquake that opened the cracks in a country and a political system that was believed to be solid.
It brought, incidentally, a constant political instability with four conservative prime ministers, at a time when the country has not yet found its own identity.
Since then, there have been increases in food prices, labor shortages in different sectors, bureaucracy, and new procedures for both imports and exports.
According to the London School of Economics (LSE), in the first two years after the divorce, the costs of each household rose by 210 British pounds, or about 260 dollars.
These are reflected, especially, in the prices of fresh foods that are imported from European countries and that add to the global inflationary trend.
“Brexit is not the main factor driving the current UK economic crisis. Like most European economies, the UK is suffering from high energy prices, the aftermath of the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, Brexit has made things worse to a certain extent”, explains King’s College London professor of economics and public policy, Jonathan Portes, for whom the exit from the community bloc was more “a slow flat tire rather than a car accident”. .
One of those complications comes from Boris Johnson’s not very subtle attempt to change the Brexit deal negotiated and signed by him, and which has increased tensions between London and Brussels over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The Northern Ireland protocol, the new stick in the wheel
The relatively tense political calm felt in Northern Ireland, leveled up with the legal figure for this British region, which remains within the European Union for both trade and customs.
Which means that sending goods from any British city to Belfast, the same country, is almost an import procedure due to the amount of new procedures and bureaucracy that it demands.
That legal figure, known as the Northern Ireland protocol, which created a new trade border in the Irish Sea, has prevented the formation of the coalition government in Belfast, and is being renegotiated by London and Brussels.
The parties are advancing, but not as fast as the political situation in Northern Ireland demands, but with the watchful eye of the United States.
Secretly, in that region, that new agreement is expected to be ready in April for the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Peace Agreement, of which the United States, but especially President Joe Biden, is a defender.
Lack of European labor
The shortage of qualified personnel is not limited to the hospitality or construction sector, but also to specialized ones such as health.
Undoubtedly recently the UK has become a less attractive country for European workers because now, with the end of the free movement of citizens, they cannot settle and work without an employment contract and without demonstrating an acceptable level of English.
The gap due to lack of labor is estimated at half a million people. The factors go beyond Brexit.
“We are also seeing a shortage of workers already here, as more people have left the workforce because they are sick or disabled. That is partly the side effect of Covid-19 and partly reflects the current crisis in the National Health Service. This is a major problem for the UK economy,” says Portes.
Chaos for exporters and importers
With the divorce, the United Kingdom immediately left the Customs Union and the Single Market of the European Union, which necessarily requires more bureaucracy and new procedures for both importing and exporting.
Before, the shipment of any merchandise from any city in the United Kingdom to a capital in Europe could take days, the same as in a shipment from London to another city in England. Today that same shipment can take weeks or months.
For this reason, the vast majority of British companies assure that the trade agreement with the European Union, after Brexit, has not helped them to expand their business in the last two years, despite the Government’s promises.
A few days before the end of 2022, the British Chamber of Commerce (CBI) published a report that shows that more than half of businessmen continue to suffer from understanding the new bureaucratic rules.
And they demand, among others, a parallel agreement with the EU to reduce bureaucracy in food exports, as well as measures to alleviate VAT, work visas and end other obstacles.
A desperate cry for independence in Scotland
The Scottish regional government has claimed, without much political or legal success, its right to a new referendum to become independent from the United Kingdom.
Far from being a closed issue, the divorce opened wounds that were thought to be healthy and has engulfed London and Edinburgh in a bitter political confrontation.
The protagonist, without a doubt, is the Scottish chief minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who has loudly criticized the central government’s refusal in London for a new consultation.
Defiantly, confident in his political capital, Sturgeon has promised that if he does not convince London for a new referendum, the next general election, likely in 2024, will be a de facto referendum.
The population, however, remains divided on whether to stay in the union or become an independent nation.
In 2014, in the first referendum, staying within the UK defeated the separatists with 55.3 of the vote, but it was a close result.
Of course, Sturgeon, has said that the new consultation will be legal or it will not be, distancing himself from the process in Catalonia.
There is no certainty whether the central government will concede to Edinburgh’s demands for a new referendum, nor is there any certainty about the effects Brexit will have on both the UK and Europe.
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