How the poorest will pay the heaviest price of all for Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit – Chris Haskins

Boris Johnson had much to ponder during his visit to HMP Leeds this week.
Boris Johnson had much to ponder during his visit to HMP Leeds this week.
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IT looks increasingly likely that Boris Johnson will achieve at least one of his Brexit objectives “to take back control” – by metaphorically making a conscious decision to jump off the cliff and leave the European Union without a deal of any sort.

It is just a shame that, in demonstrating that he is at last in control, the country should end up in a mangled heap at the bottom of the cliff.

Boris Johnson has pledged to lead Britain out of the EU by October 31.

Boris Johnson has pledged to lead Britain out of the EU by October 31.

But before we make the collective jump, we need to remind ourselves of the thrilling prospects we were promised during the referendum campaign.

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We were told that negotiating a favourable economic deal with the EU – having our cake and eating it – would be easy because the EU needed us more than we needed them.

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Boris Johnson's first visit to Yorkshire as Pm included a visit to HMP Leeds this week.

Boris Johnson's first visit to Yorkshire as Pm included a visit to HMP Leeds this week.

We were told that the rest of the world would be queueing up to sign favourable trade deals with the UK which would lead to a golden age of economic renewal.

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We were told that the UK would, post Brexit, attract great waves of new investment, both from domestic and overseas companies keen to share in the bonanza.

Three years later, we are threatening to walk away from the treacherous Europeans who feel under no obligation to give us a sweetheart deal.

Chris Haskins is the latest senior figure to question Boris Johnson's Brexit strategy.

Chris Haskins is the latest senior figure to question Boris Johnson's Brexit strategy.

Furthermore, there is not a single external trade deal in sight.

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And businesses, both foreign and domestic, have kept their money in their pockets.

Today no Brexiteer dares mention a short or even medium term prospect of an economic bonanza from Brexit. Instead consumers are faced with the prospect of significant price increases because of the failing currency and the likelihood of substantial tariffs being imposed on all imports – notably food.

Brexit continues to be the defining issue of British politics.

Brexit continues to be the defining issue of British politics.

Major disruption to the sophisticated automotive supply chain puts thousands of jobs in jeopardy. Big companies, like British Steel, which sends one-quarter of its sales to the EU, face paying tariffs of more than 20 per cent on them.

Airbus, employing thousands of people in North Wales and elsewhere in Britain, are considering relocation to mainland Europe. Many large Japanese companies who chose the UK as their base for trading across the EU are thinking again. Welsh farmers who sell the majority of their lambs to the EU are facing the devastating prospect of having to pay a 40 per cent tariff on these sales.

Meanwhile the Johnson government is proposing to spend billions to mitigate the effect of all this on its hapless citizens which means it will have far less to spend on health, schools, social security and infrastructure. Further pressure will come on the pound as markets fret about the UK’s financial resilience.

Farmers will, overnight, lose their huge EU subsidies. Could the Treasury afford to replace them? The Government plans to renege on the £39bn owed to the EU, but as this will surely be contested in the courts, it would be irresponsible to spend this.

Holidaymakers will face long delays as they work their way through passport controls at airports and ports, and when they get to their destination could find prices 20 per cent higher than a year ago.

The millions of UK nationals living in the EU face an uncertain and bleak future. EU citizens living in the UK feel equally vulnerable. Without a deal, the migrant workers who keep our fruit and vegetable farms and factories viable and underpin the construction industry, will accelerate their planned departures.

There is a clear risk of friction between British and French fishermen as they seek to do business in each others’ disputed territories. The lucrative export shell fish trade to the EU from struggling coastal towns like Bridlington is bound to implode.

And then there is Ireland. Unless the minority Democratic Unionist Party changes its mind and agrees to making the Irish Sea the tariff barrier between Britain and the EU, border controls between the North and the South will have to be reintroduced, thereby undermining the Good Friday Agreement, and reviving the fearful prospect of terrorism.

The complete dissolution of the United Kingdom is a distinct consequence of a no-deal Brexit as the Scots, already extremely concerned about English dominance over their future, will resist a Brexit deal being imposed upon them by their assertive neighbour. If the Scots go their own way the Welsh will surely follow.

This, in turn, will diminish the influence of England in the international scene. It would be hard to justify her retaining a permanent seat in the UN Security council.

The 100,000 largely wealthy members of the Conservative Party, who have brought to fruition this state of affairs by appointing Boris Johnson as their leader and as Prime Minister, are rich enough to take all this in their stride.

They can afford to indulge in the nostalgia of England’s glorious, imperial past and their aversion to foreigners, especially French and Germans.

But the ones who suffer worst in an economic meltdown are the poor, many of whom have been attracted to the dangerous, racist populist appeal of the Brexiteer movement. And their chronic low expectations from society could be a source of civil unrest which could lead to fearsome consequences.

So, before millions of trusting Brexiteers are led over the precipice by their evangelical if misguided leaders, it might be worth pondering for the last time whether the sacrifice is worth it, in that original promises of opportunity and freedom have not been realised, whereas the negative consequences of Brexit now seem more dire and unavoidable.

Chris Haskins is a peer, farmer and former head of Northern Foods. He chairs the Humber LEP and is writing in a personal capacity.