It’s been another eventful week in Brexit land and although not everything made it into the downside dossier, the connections are obvious. The Covid inquiry rumbles on revealing ever more clearly how ill-equipped Britain was at the end of 2019 to face the onslaught of a global pandemic, led by a bunch of hand-picked Brexity incompetents.
Boris Johnson is emerging as a callous, indecisive cretin unable to comprehend the simplest scientific data unless repeatedly explained Janet-and-John style by his exasperated sidekick Igor, played menacingly by Dominic Cummings.
The cognitively impaired Brexit supporters
Anyone who doubts we were badly served would do well to read a peer reviewed academic paper from Bath University’s School of Management proving scientifically that “higher cognitive ability was strongly linked to voting to Remain in the 2016 UK referendum on European Union Membership”.
The Times chose to headline the print edition of their report on it: Less intelligent were more likely to back Brexit. Online readers got a slightly toned down version: People with lower cognitive ability ‘were more likely to vote for Brexit’, presumably to spare the blushes of leave voters who don’t buy newspapers and are unaware of what cognitive ability means.
Michel Barnier, the EUs chief negotiator, made a similar point in an interview with the FT this week: “From the very first day [of the talks], the UK ministers not only underestimated the consequences of Brexit – they did not know the consequences of Brexit.”
Brexit, it seems, was a case of the cognitively impaired leading the cognitively impaired.
We also had the autumn statement on Wednesday, where Jeremy Hunt was masquerading as the tax-cutting chancellor. It’s unclear who was fooled by this, since the Office for Budgetary Responsibility published its Fiscal and Economic Outlook at the same time which declared that the tax burden “still rises in every year to a post-war high of 37.7% of GDP by 2028-29”. Post war refers to 1945 by the way.
Hunt also claimed it was a budget for growth. The OBR disagreed: “In our central forecast, we have revised down our estimate of the medium-term potential growth rate of the economy to 1.6%, from 1.8% in March.”
And on the cost-of-living crisis, Hunt said he was helping consumers. Meanwhile, the OBR noted we are enduring “the largest reduction in real living standards since ONS records began in the 1950s”. Of course, nobody expects the chancellor to get everything right but just one thing occasionally might help.
Lastly, the ONS chose to release an update to the net migration figures, revising last year’s record 606,000 to a new high of 745,000. This prompted the FT’s deputy political editor Jim Pickard to tweet:
In 2019 the Conservative manifesto promised that “overall numbers will come down” but that could only be done by a “strong Conservative Government that can get Brexit done”. Yet another indication of cognitive impairment at the top perhaps?
Despatches from the Downside
We added 11 new entries on the downside this week, with once again, no upsides.
A new report by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR), ‘Revisiting the Effect of Brexit’, suggests that in 2023 Brexit was behind a fall in private consumption of around 11–12%.
UK real GDP is said to be some 2–3% lower at the moment due to Brexit, compared to a scenario where the UK retained EU membership, corresponding to a per capita income loss of approximately £850.
The NIESR goes further than the OBR. NIESR expects the negative impact of Brexit to gradually escalate, reaching some 5–6% (£125–£150bn) of GDP – or about £2,300 per person – by 2035, compared to the OBR’s more modest drop of 4% (£100bn) over the same period.
The Bank of England’s deputy governor for markets and banking, Dave Ramsden, appeared before the Commons Treasury select committee and told MPs that the fallout from the Brexit vote damaged investment levels compared with other leading nations and contributed to a lower “speed limit” for the UK economy. He said: “It’s hard to conclude otherwise, that the decision to leave the EU – that may have had lots of goods reasons for it – but that it has chilled business investment.”
Ramsden didn’t expand on what the ‘good reasons’ were and the MPs didn’t press him on it.
An official of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, in front of another parliamentary committee, this time The House of Lords European Affairs sub-committee, put a shot across the bows of Brexiters who want to ditch EU laws.
Alexander Kinnear said post-Brexit divergence between UK and EU rules would put the future of some farming sectors at risk. As an example, he pointed to the use of glyphosate on farms for the desiccation (drying) of crops, where the EU is considering extending its use for another 10 years, but not for pre-harvest desiccation. “If we can’t use it for that purpose the viability of the cereal sector in Northern Ireland comes into question, which should set alarm bells ringing”, he said.
And to highlight the problem of divergence, Vet Times reports that a recently launched revolutionary once-daily oral solution for treating diabetes mellitus in cats has been approved for use in Great Britain, but due to current post-Brexit arrangements, it will not be immediately available in Northern Ireland until it receives separate EU marketing authorisation.
In a further blow to the province, it has been revealed that no money has been allocated to Northern Ireland from the £1bn levelling up funding because the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) continues to refuse to join the power-sharing executive in protest over the post-Brexit Irish Sea border.
The DUP describe the move as “economic blackmail”.
In an obscure reference in the October edition of the magazine Border Management Today, it appears that the introduction of the EU’s ETIAS (electronic travel information and authorisation system) is going to create problems for some citizens with dual UK/EU nationality.
A Portuguese national for example, with dual UK citizenship travelling to the EU, will be able to use ETIAS on the outbound journey using their Portuguese passport. But a manual passport check will be required for the return leg. This is because the UK’s interactive advance passenger information (iAPI) system does not automatically link the Portuguese passport to the grant of British nationality.
A Christmas market traditionally organised in Hull by a local branch of The Danish Church is set to make a return on 25 November but organiser Dorthe Hostick, chair of the social fund at the church, says it has become more stressful and “much more difficult because of Brexit”.
Hostick told the Yorkshire Post that: “We can still get most of the things that people want to buy but everything is more complicated. Before Brexit we could just order what we wanted and it all came on a pallet from Denmark just a few days later. Now it takes longer and it costs more because of import duty and clearance.”
The Irish government is warning its exporters to be prepared for 31 January next year when new UK import controls come into force with particular implications for agri-food exporters, including those using the UK land bridge.
Export health certificates (EHCs) and phytosanitary (SPS) certificates will be required for medium-risk animal products, plants, and plant products imported into GB from the EU, including from Ireland. Pre-notification of imports of SPS goods from Ireland on the UK’s SPS import system (IPAFFS) will also begin, adding to the cost of trade and potentially to UK inflation.
Ireland’s agri-food exports to the UK in 2022 totalled €5.4bn.
Another unforeseen downside to the post-Brexit rule banning Premier League football clubs signing under 18s from EU member states is that many clubs are ‘scouring’ Scotland for rising stars, leaving Scottish clubs short of home grown talent, according to a former Hibernian player Tam MaManus writing in his column for The Daily Record.
And in the art market, a new report claims that the post-Brexit 5% import VAT and significant red tape has hugely impacted EU-UK cross-border trade. Imports of artwork to the UK in 2022 was $2.8bn, less than half the level of 2015, the year before the Brexit vote. It follows a survey by the market research firm Arts Economics.
Anthony Browne, chair of the British Art Market Federation (BAMF), told a conference in London that, “I don’t think I’ve experienced a more difficult time for our art market than now”.
Cycloc, a London-based bicycle accessory company has blamed Brexit and the “increased barriers to selling in the EU” for ceasing the production of an award-winning wall-mounted device for storing bikes. Clare Lowe, head of operations, said some EU distributors had stopped placing orders, citing the “cost of shipping and customs clearance as prohibitive”.