How Brexit betrayed the working classes
Brexit has created a wonderful illusion: that Britain is still relevant to the world and that its people can now chart an independent course, free from the clutches of the European Union. The reality is that Brexit was engineered by hedge funds and private equity firms that don’t care at all about working class people: the very demographic most likely to have voted to quit the EU.
As night follows day, it was perfectly predictable that a Tory Brexit would accelerate the race to the bottom.
Fishing: Sold downstream of the river
Remains highlighted that the fishing industry is worth less than Â£ 500million to UK GDP (or 0.1 percent, 0.02 percent of the gross added value) compared to, say, the financial services industry, which is worth over Â£ 130 billion (almost 7 percent of GDP).
The latter is a huge pro-conservative lobby (for example, most of the Â£ 37million given to the party in 2019 came from finance). The sector was part of the mechanism that triggered the global financial crisis in 2007-08. The fishing industry has almost no money to lobby. So it made sense that the Tories didn’t care about fishing. In fact, 80 percent of the âBritishâ fishing industry is owned by foreign multinationals and Rich List entrepreneurs. A third belong to only five families. Jerry Percy from the new association of fishermen under ten call him the âprivatization of a public resourceâ.
Despite this, fishermen blamed the EU for their plight, with an incredible 92 percent would have voted for Brexit. But they were quickly betrayed by Johnson’s UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (CTA), which despite promises to keep EU ships 12 miles out of the waters British. allows them to fish in the six. Over a five-year period, the remaining quarter of EU allowances will be transferred to the UK, minus allowances yet to be negotiated Total allowable catch.
The perfect storm of Brexit, climate change and COVID has loaded the industry with red tape (new export rules), bad catches (bad weather) and collapsed demand (locked pubs and restaurants).
In April of last year, the government announced Â£ 10million in grants to small and medium-sized fishing and fish farming businesses to see them through the effects of the pandemic (read: COVID and Brexit).
Yorkshire fisherman Frank Powell said: “We were going to get our coastal fisheries back … But now it’s worse than ever.” Welsh fisherman, Barry Thomas, said new rules that allow EU ships in UK waters: “It’s like a rugby match and you are one person against a team of 15”. David Pessell, Managing Director of Plymouth Trawler Agents, said: âThe deal was absolutely shameful and shamefulâ¦ [The government] broke his word in all respects.
Agriculture: harvest what they sow
By GDP, agriculture contributes 0.6 percent to the UK economy. A majority of UK farmers voted for the holiday: 53 percent to 45. Given its minimal economic interest to the government, the same logic applies to agriculture as it does to fisheries. The UK agricultural sector has also faced the grim triad of Brexit, climate change and COVID, shrinking the industry by more than Â£ 5-4 billion, the pain mainly affecting small farmers. Further losses are caused by the end of EU subsidies not yet replaced by national bailouts.
Many of us have warned that post-Brexit “free trade” agreements with major meat producers like Australia and Brazil would flood the UK with cheap foreign products and hurt domestic producers: this is because the goal of the Conservative Party is to secure corporate profit and not true patriotism (i.e. occupy the public).
In terms of increasing GDP, the government’s best case scenario for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the UK and Australia is a 0.1% increase (or Â£ 500million per year). But UK farmers are likely to lose. The current FTA provides for increase in Australian beef and lamb quotas thousands of tonnes (which currently protect UK farmers) to dozens of thousands, which could ruin the little ones. Johnson Team described the FTA as a âgatewayâ to countries with even lower food standards, such as Peru and Vietnam which are members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) FTA.
The TPP illustrates the very forms of corporate globalization that the ânationalistâ Brexit voters thought they were opposing by voting the holiday.
Another problem facing farmers is Brexodus: the return of European migrants to their countries of origin. Small farmers are unable to pay high wages to British farm workers, hence their dependence on gatherers from Eastern Europe. Bigger farmers want to save money and keep profits. Instead of creating new jobs for UK fruit pickers, Brexit has increasing prison work and the robotics industries a boost.
Brexit could be expensive for the UK around 80,000 seasonal pickers. The conversation demystifies the widely held myth that British workers don’t want to pick fruit. In reality, there are logistical impossibilities: no rural transport, expensive housing, and a rigid social security system that makes it difficult to do temporary work. Enter the robots.
Despite all the right-wing talk that Labor is the party of the âmetropolitan elite,â London-based Xihelm produces harvesting robots. As for post-Brexit British patriotism, the company was founded by a former employee of the American giant Google. As the working class struggles to pay rents and mortgages, Xihelm receives documents: âWe have raised significant funds through a combination of venture capital and government innovation grants. “
Automation in manufacturing is another concern. Industry, including manufacturing, is a more lucrative and robust sector than agriculture and fishing, comprising almost 18 percent of GDP (8 percent added value).
The more likely voters were to live in areas prone to automation, the greater the probability they voted Brexit: Boston (Lincolnshire), Great Yarmouth (Norfolk), Harlow (Essex) and Mansfield (Nottinghamshire) have high automation rates and also voted to leave. During the parliamentary stalemate in 2018, almost four in 10 workers feared robot-related layoffs or a decline in the quality of work due to automation.
Unlike fishing, agriculture and hedge funds, most manufacturing companies voted Rest. Most of their workers, however, voted the leave. But it does not follow that leaving the EU would reduce automation. In 2019, the UK was below the EU average for the automation of the workstation. Brexit and COVID have both accelerated the trend.
In 2019, the Office for National Statistics valued 1.5 million jobs in England were threatened with automation. The risks exceed 50 percent for processing, factories and machine operations, compared to less than 20 for professional occupations. The Business, Energy and Industry Strategy Committee (BEISC) wants Great Britain to be “a world scientific superpower after Brexit”. This includes work automation and finding strategies to help workers cope with being scrapped. BEISC recommends âan action plan on how this transition will be managedâ.
Johnson’s is a second kick in the face of workers who vote for Brexit and fear automation Â£ 7million in taxpayer money to 38 AI projects, including auto painters, robo offshore wind farms, autoloading cargo drones, and autonomous search and rescue activities. These will put skilled decorators, green workers, transporters and coast guards at risk of layoffs and reduced work.
Big Bang 2.0
But it’s not just tech start-ups. Workers are also handing over their hard-earned money to large post-Brexit companies.
Under the guise of the COVID upturn, Johnson is allowing automakers, including electric battery and gigafactory developers, to cut their tax bills by 25%, which is tantamount to indirect subsidies. There are also direct distributions. Nissan has announced its intention to stay in Britain after Brexit, much to the delight of Brexiteers. But right-wing media failed to mention that working-class taxpayers have contributed Â£ 100million to the company’s proposed gigafactory. The Economist comments: “Such measures would have been possible while Britain was in the EU, but may not have been necessary.”
But the cruelest attack on the working classes is supercharged financial deregulation. CityAm said: Chancellor Rishi Sunak “is widely considered to have more than a Thatcherite touch about him”. The so-called Big Bang that deregulated the City in the 1980s and contributed to the destruction of the very working-class communities that voted for Brexit will be stepped up a gear. Billionaire Sunak agrees with post-Brexit comparisons: “[they] make a very, very good point.
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