During the Brexit referendum campaign, when the then British Finance Minister George Osborne spoke about leaving the EU leading to a lack of supplies, price hikes and layoffs, the leader of the option to leave, Boris Johnson, he denounced those predictions as “the campaign of fear”, and his right-hand man, Michael Gove, said that the British “have had enough of the experts and their predictions.”
Five years later, and with the invaluable help of a pandemic that has shaken the economies of half the world, the current prime minister and his Brexit minister, Johnson and Gove, face a reality as worrying as the one predicted by Osborne: lack of supplies, a completely misaligned labor market and inflation that is overheating at a forced pace.
The economic shocks have been going on for weeks. Restaurant chains that are forced to withdraw products from the menu due to lack of supplies, supermarkets with numerous bald spots on the shelves and stocks that disappear at full speed. Behind these problems, exacerbated by the problems of global supply chains, is one word that stands out: Brexit. The customs barriers put in place by Johnson himself and the slamming of cheap workers in Eastern Europe picking fruit and driving trucks have strangled the economy’s circulatory system.
Julian Jessop, a Brexiter member of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a free market think tank, explained to Bloomberg that Johnson’s problem is that he “does not want to admit that the free movement of workers was positive for the United Kingdom, for non give the impression that he does not trust Brexit. ”
When the hauliers associations asked Johnson to increase work visas for his industry, which has a chronic shortage of about 100,000 drivers, the Executive’s response was that “the voters have opted to give British citizens jobs first” and that “we want employers to make long-term investments in the UK domestic workforce.”
The problem is that those supposedly unemployed British truckers who had been robbed of their jobs by the Poles simply did not exist, and now there is no one to fill the position of the Poles while the companies train native substitutes. The solution is to fight for the few drivers there are, withwage rises that affect consumers , in a dangerous inflationary spiral.
“Brexit was always going to cause a tension in conservative philosophy between the commitment to the free market and the commitment to sovereignty,” said Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. “In the end, they chose sovereignty.”
A tough fit
The problem is that the historic breakdown of the economic system in which the UK had been embedded for decades has come at the worst moment imaginable, amid an onslaught of Ertes, a historic labor market reconfiguration and global tensions. It is difficult to design a worse context to force the country’s market to readjust itself from the roots. And the effects are beginning to be seen now, when the Government has withdrawn the painkillers of multimillion-dollar aid to sectors affected by the pandemic.
For Minouche Shafik, deputy governor of the Bank of England, some sectors will grow rapidly while others will have to increase wages to hire, arguing that “we have to let the labor market do its job”, raising wages and prices as needed. part of the “structural transformation” of the economy. The Bank thus believes that inflationary pressures are transitory, and wants to wait to see how the economy is readjusted before making decisions on interest rates. Still, he has raised his projections , and now expects inflation to peak above 3% by the end of the year, a date that terrifies consumer companies.
It’s hard to imagine Johnson enduring headlines like ‘No meat in supermarkets, but at least there’s sovereignty to spare’
Big food and retail associations are warning of a widespread shortage crisis looming ahead of Christmas . It is precisely in these months when stores, of all sizes, collect food, toys, clothes and everything imaginable to sell at the time of greatest consumption of the year. But this time, not only are they not storing anything, but stocks are at 30-year lows and downward due to the gigantic supply bottleneck. According to Richard Harrow, executive director of the British Federation of Frozen Foods, “there are shortages everywhere” mainly due to Brexit. “There is little flexibility to fill the gaps that we have.”
The big question now is what will happen when the designated dates approach if everything follows this path. It’s hard to imagine Johnson enduring headlines like ‘Meat is lacking in supermarkets, but at least there is sovereignty to spare’, as if England had suddenly been transformed into Venezuela. The other side of the coin is that his political career is based on Brexit, and that the purges he carried out in his party during 2019 have thrown out of his fold many voters of the liberal anti-Brexit wing – such as the former Speaker of Parliament, John Bercow- in exchange for attracting as many English nationalists, willing to jump at any ‘betrayal’ of the ‘pure Brexit’ that Johnson has defended from the beginning.