Britain wakes up to Brexit hangover

Growing alarm at the impact on trade with the EU

For all the Government’s brave words about teething troubles and jovial comparisons with bumpy rides just after take off, it is blatantly clear that there are serious trade problems with the EU following Brexit.

There were bound to be problems with a deal cobbled together at the last minute, and now the devil is being revealed in the detail, or more precisely, lack of detail. And with few independent observers or commentators having little positive to say about how it’s going so far, government ministers and officials are already pushing the “it’s not our fault, it’s their fault” line.

In fact, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is not just blaming Brussels for “imposing” obstacles to trade, he is also advising business leaders and the public to take a “10-year-view” on the current troubles faced by UK companies. But with many of those companies already signalling they are close to going out of business, ten years is likely to prove far too late.

Business leaders will be forgiven for reminding Mr Raab and his cabinet colleagues that there was no mention of a ten year wait when they were told that “things can only get better” in the run up to the Brexit vote over four years ago.

The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost also criticised the EU for its actions since the new trade deal came into force.

He said the changed relationship had been “more than bumpy” and “problematic” and called for “a different spirit” from Brussels going forward. But with no immediate sign of trade problems easing for UK companies, hundreds are already investigating shifting part, or even their entire operation, to EU countries, where they would be free again of the vastly increased bureaucracy and punitive duties of Brexit.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, has compared the situation to a flight, saying, “We all know that when an aeroplane takes off, that is the point where you sometimes get an increased level of turbulence. But eventually, you then reach a cruising altitude and the crew tell you to take your seatbelt off and enjoy a gin and tonic and some peanuts.” He added, “We are not at the gin and tonic and peanuts stage yet but I am confident we will be.” As yet, few business leaders appear to share that confidence.

What our surveys show 

Despite concerns over the lateness of the trade deal with the EU, most were relieved that at least there was a deal and looked forward to making a success off the new relationship, whether or not we voted for it. But almost half of those surveyed, 47%, already consider that with severe trade issues with our former partners persisting, the economic impact on the UK will be worse than expected. Only 16% think it will be better than expected, perhaps they are taking that 10-year-view Mr Raab mentioned into consideration, while
23% said it will be the same as expected, and 14% were “don’t knows”.

When it comes to how the Government is doing over Brexit, just 11% think “very well”, with another 23% saying “fairly well”. But with 37% thinking our leaders are performing “very badly” and a further 20% “fairly badly”, more than half of us are unimpressed. Another 9% were “don’t knows”. Even amongst Leave voters, 21% said the Government was doing “fairly badly”. And in our continuing “How Would You Vote Now” survey, numbers in favour of Remain, 55%, have increased again, with 45% saying Leave.

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