I guess it was bound to get political in the end, but you have to ask, “Just how is Brexit likely to be good for employment”?
It seems to me that Brexiteers are romantics. Frequently the rest of us are stubbornly attached to things as they are. But I am here to talk about Brexit and not to become a romantic myself. The school of hard departure is a mix of bloody-mindedness, a degree of closet racism and a rose-tinted view of Britain’s position in the world and how loved we are in it. In this view, it is only the foreigner who holds us back from achieving our great destiny. I actually talked to one hard Brexiteer who thought it would lead to a revival of Empire. In this view, Britain is released from its shackles and free to make all sorts of trading relationships around the world that no-one can even dream of. It will bring out the dynamic creative side of our nature.
Call Redundant Man a cynic, but, when it comes to the days of world leadership, the ship has not just sailed. It sunk some time ago. Even the idea that we punch above our weight is contradicted by the sight of aircraft carriers, devoid of aircraft (I suppose we just call them carriers, in this case?), sailing the high seas accompanied by the feeble few warships we still have left. Let’s face it, we are so enfeebled that we can’t even get a ship to help citizens on the other side of the Atlantic inside a week.
In industry, it is not a lot different. People don’t buy British, they buy Chinese, they buy Indian. The days when we used to distribute widely to the world are also long gone. Why else do we have such staggering trade deficits year after year.
I appreciate that the Romantickeers say this is because we can’t make trade deals ourselves. But actually, our biggest trade partners are European. Out motor industry, our pharmaceuticals, our food processing and farming are heavily tied up with Europe. Our tourists fly in and out of there. Even our financial sector plays a crucial part in determining Europe’s exchange rates and in trading various commodities. If we came out of Europe tomorrow, then overnight, our planes cannot fly; our nuclear industry grinds to a halt, lorries grind to a halt under the pressure of having to have papers processed and food prices rise through the roof as the pound plummets In the longer term, car manufacturers will switch to European alternatives, as will other large multi-internationals, but switch they will as the UK ceases to the gateway to the European market. We will become a small peripheral and expensive market on our own.
And the effect on jobs will be catastrophic. At best we will continue the downward spiral to a low skills, low wage economy we are hell bent on at the moment. Businesses will do what they always do in a crisis. They will stop recruiting and make plans to lay off staff as the economy worsens. As we lack the skills to fill the jobs that 3 million foreigners fill today, waiting lists at hospitals will get longer, strawberries will remain unpicked and care homes will be filled with people who have nobody to care for them.
As foreigners return to their countries of origin in Europe, taxes will decline and the slump will be exacerbated.
Now, I know the merchants of gloom predicted this at the time of the referendum, but, a bit like global warming, it takes a while for changes to sink in and for the atmosphere to actually change. Pro-Brexit supporters have spent the past year sticking their tongues out and saying it has not been the disaster that was predicted. Like ripples on the water, everything we have seen so far in terms of the effects on jobs has just been the ripples on the pond.