BORIS JOHNSON SEEMS HELL-BENT on leaving the European Union on 31st October.
He has virtually no time to renegotiate and the EU shows no sign of budging. That means it is odds on that Britain will leave the EU with no deal. What does this mean?
MEDICINES AND HEALTH
On leaving the EU without a deal, we would no longer be a member of the European Medicines Agency. Britain imports much of its medicine. It often requires storage in very delicate conditions, and can become unusable with any delay in its shipping. A no-deal Brexit means an immediate emergency in the provision of medicines. Around 37 million packets of medicines are imported every month from the EU, worth £18.3 billion. According to the Nuffield Trust those 37 million items of medicine would face 44 new checks and controls.
THE AUTO INDUSTRY AND AEROSPACE
A modern car consists of tens of thousands of components. It is vital that each part arrives just-in-time, requiring systematic international planning. All these delicate arrangements will be massively disrupted by a no-deal Brexit. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders calculates a no-deal Brexit will cost the UK car industry £50,000 per minute. The auto industry contributes £18.6bn to the UK economy and employs hundreds of thousands of workers, if we include all those employed in making components for the long industry supply chain.
Britain, as an EU member state, is a partner in the Airbus project. The aerospace and defence industry gives 260,000 workers secure employment at present. The ADS lobby group working for the UK Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space sectors claims the industry will lose £875m per week if Britain crashes out without a deal.
Britain exports the majority of its catch to the EU - £1.32bn. This includes high value added items such as crabs, lobsters and scallops destined for upmarket restaurants in France and Spain. Much of this produce is landed in ports such as Peterhead, far from the EU market. It has to be fresh in order to attract a premium price. Delays to its delivery could be fatal to the livelihood of the seafood processors in Scotland.
FOOD AND FARMING
Nearly one third of our food comes from the EU. There are wide seasonal variations when fruit and veg cannot be harvested in the UK. For instance in March, 90% of the lettuces eaten in the UK, 80% of the tomatoes and 70% of soft fruit is sourced from the EU. 31st October has been identified as the worst possible time to exit the EU. Chaos in food supplies is guaranteed in the event of no-deal. One area where Britain is a net exporter to the EU is in sheep and lamb. Though the World Trade Organisation rules are not completely clear, it seems UK exports will face a tariff of 46% into the EU. This will make our exports utterly uncompetitive. We face the distressing prospect of a mass slaughter of sheep. Prices in the UK would also collapse.
THE IRISH BORDER
The peace process marked an increase in trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic. There is a substantial transfer of livestock and animal products between the two. The border is effectively invisible. This is the case because up till now both the UK and the Republic have been members of the EU. When that ends without a deal the border will become a massive obstacle to mutually advantageous trade. Delays are bound to proliferate. We are back to a hard border, a threat to both peace and prosperity.
CITIZENS AND FREE MOVEMENT
There are more than 3 million EU citizens living in the UK at present. A no-deal Brexit is likely to produce a drastic and damaging clamp down on migration. Those who try to arrive after a no-deal Brexit will for the most part be regarded as unwelcome aliens and will not be allowed in. About 900,000 UK citizens living in the EU will lose their special privileges and be treated like any other non-EU national.
SCIENCE AND RESEARCH
According to the Royal Society one in six researchers in higher education are from the EU. They may have to pay 14% of their annual salary in the form of immigration charges to enter the country to pay for their family to follow.
Collaborative research facilities across the EU are likely to withdraw their funds from the UK. Without regulatory alignment with the EU the UK could be excluded from many clinical trials of new treatments, falling behind in best medical practice. We would also lose over £1bn in EU research funding.
All in all a no-deal Brexit will be a catastrophe for working people in this country. We have to fight that outcome with all our might.