United Kingdom: Fearing an apocalyptic Brexit
Supermarket shelves emptied. Trucks backed up for miles at ports. Airplanes grounded. Diabetics short of insulin. These, said Tim Shipman and Mark Hookam in The Sunday Times, are just a few of the calamities that could befall Britain if it crashes out of the European Union next March without a trade-and-cooperation deal with the Continent. Yet the government’s preparations for such a no-deal Brexit scenario “are both patchy and, in some regards, hair-raising.” Health minister Matt Hancock said his department was preparing to stockpile medicines, while Brexit minister Dominic Raab said the government was working to make sure that there are “adequate food supplies.” But many foods and medicines will spoil if stored too long, and the country simply doesn’t have enough warehouse space to stockpile large quantities of nonperishable goods. And how can we refrigerate all that stuff if energy supplies are disrupted? The possibilities are so terrifying that the government has asked companies involved in Brexit planning to sign nondisclosure agreements “in an attempt to prevent alarming details leaking out.”
Let’s look at just one aspect: the food industry, said Ian Dunt in Politics.co.uk. We import 40 percent of our food, with about 10,000 shipping containers arriving daily from the EU. If we quit the EU’s barrier-less customs union without a deal, all food going in and out of the U.K. will need to be checked at the border, causing catastrophic delays. Studies show that if the current average paperwork clearance of two minutes at Dover were increased to just four, there would be a 20-mile backup within 24 hours. Now extrapolate that mess to every other industry, where “just in time” supply chains would be devastated by tariffs and customs checks.
Whatever happened to the wartime spirit of “Keep Calm and Carry On”? asked Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail. Our leaders have become “hysterics, predicting the imminent end of the world as we know it.” Brexit will starve us and isolate us, they warn. It’s like the doom mongering that surrounded Y2K, when experts said a global software bug would cause computers to go haywire and planes to plummet from the sky when the year changed from 1999 to 2000. It didn’t happen. “My bet is that if there is a no-deal Brexit, life will just toddle along pretty much as before.”
Only a small minority of hard-line Europhobes in the ruling Conservative Party want a no-deal exit, said Vernon Bogdanor in The Guardian. Yet we might get one, because there is no sure majority in Parliament “for any of the various forms of Brexit on offer.” Conservative lawmakers won’t back a deal that keeps us too close to the EU or one that severs ties completely. And Prime Minister Theresa May’s wishy-washy part-in, part-out Brexit plan pleases no one. The only solution is to hold another referendum and ask voters if they really want to leave the EU. “The people must be asked to resolve the dilemma which Parliament cannot.” ■