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Liar, liar, Brexit’s on fire!

Speaker's Corner

The BREXIT debate briefly re-ignited a couple of weeks ago and was quickly extinguished by team Rishi. But it wasn’t put out, it is smouldering away like a not so dormant volcano. Brexit’s done! It may be but the elusive BREXIT opportunities should be hailed as intangible cultural heritage along with the French baguette - although unlike BREXIT opportunities the latter actually exists. BREXIT ushered in the post truth politics championed by Trump, Putin and Johnson. That still today allows senior politicians, both government and opposition, to pretend that BREXIT isn’t what Project Fear predicted it would be: an unmitigated disaster. BREXIT clearly isn’t working.

The Labour front bench have joined the Tory’s mantra, “we must wean ourselves off a low-pay, low-skill work force and retrain our workers in highly-skilled, high-paid jobs." We can’t all make semiconductors and what does society do about the low-skilled workers made redundant by technological advances? Robots can’t replace the workforce in all sectors, for example, in social care, “fixed once and for all” by Boris Johnson! While we’re waiting for these high-paid, highly-skilled workers to get trained up there is, right now, a chronic labour shortage right across the market from highly-skilled to unskilled.

Social care is a highly responsible, skilled job but hopelessly low paid but there were European workers skilled in care who were willing to accept the poor pay. Not a great solution but while we’re trying to get more UK workers into the care system perhaps we should be able to accept help from Europe. It’s not training that is the obstacle here, it’s low pay. The care sector is abysmally poorly paid but local authorities have nowhere to turn for the extra money to pay a decent wage. The government dumped social care costs onto local authorities whose only sources of income are the government and Council tax both of which severely restrict any possibility of securing additional funds. And we all know that social care is one of the major impediments to a properly functioning NHS as beds are blocked by patients with nowhere to go.

Control of immigration was said to be one of the most persuasive arguments for those supporting BREXIT. Leaving the EU would reduce immigration by stopping the free movement of labour. Currently though, we have record immigration figures now made up from people outside Europe. We do need a certain level of immigration including people to work in sectors from agriculture to social care. Immigrants, like the rest of us, pay taxes, contributing to the costs of public services but as the economy shrank at a stroke on 31st December 2020, so did the tax take. By how much is hotly debated but even before the pandemic and galloping inflation, the economy was clearly going to shrink significantly by cutting off a market serving a population of 400 million next door.

The solution which is so uncomfortable for Brexiteers is not to rejoin the EU - that democratic decision has been made and will take a couple of generations to unmake - but rejoining the Single Market would be a sensible starting point. Many small businesses can no longer afford to trade with Europe and many medium-sized businesses moved their Europe operations to the EU to serve the European market, paying their taxes into European economies; a direct loss to the UK exchequer. The Northern Ireland problem would disappear instantly as both GB and NI would be in the same single market as Eire.

The Brexiteers solution, the bonfire of EU regulations promised by Jacob Rees Mog, is still piled up high ready to be set on fire. This, an attempt to regrow the economy battered by Brexit, the pandemic and raging inflation, is futile at time of a world-wide economic slow down. Those EU regulations provide a raft of employment and environmental protections but once that bonfire is lit there will be nothing left but ash.

The Green Party is currently campaigning for closer alignment with the European Union and the restoration of the UK’s place in the Horizon Europe Research Programme and the Erasmus+ scheme.