Domestic Politics Brexit Politics

Brexit two years on: has the UK ‘taken back control'?

The Nouse team analyse the ripple effect of Brexit two years on

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Image Credit: Jenny Goodfellow

Two years on from the U.K’s official exit from the European Union, the ripple effect continues to be influential across the country. With the added complications created by Covid-19, we explore the lasting legacy of Brexit in our key sectors.

NHS

Despite two years passing since the UK’s break with the EU, Brexit still causes uncertainty for the NHS and social care sectors. There continues to be a general concern that there has been no improvement to health care as promised, including the £350 million promised by Vote Leave’s Brexit bus, with the most challenging being staffing. Leaving the EU’s single market has brought a halt to the free movement of workers between the EU and UK. This has led to large numbers of non-British workers leaving the NHS as a result of new laws requiring all workers from EEA nations to declare their right to work in the UK through the EU Settlement Scheme, therefore there is now a huge shortfall in NHS staffing. According to Kingsfund, despite a pledge to hire 5, 000 more NHS nurses in the next few years, the new immigration laws place difficult barriers when hiring from EEA countries. Whilst it is still relatively easy for the NHS to hire staff from non-EEA countries, the new laws have definitely made the UK a less attractive place to international health workers seeking employment and make it more difficult than before to hire staff to resolve the growing workforce crisis.

Katy Leverett, Travel Editor

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Protocol following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU has created significant trading implications, with checks implemented on goods crossing the Irish Sea. Long delays at the port, particularly for animal and plant-based products, has added around four hours to the turnaround time per lorry since the Protocol came into effect. As a result, compliance costs for businesses have noticeably increased too. Despite this, Northern Ireland has enjoyed free access to twin markets during the transition period, spear-heading a 60 percent increase in trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic in the first nine months of last year. Labour shortages have been one barrier though as 18,000 EU migrants have left Northern Ireland since 2016. The pandemic has exacerbated this by halting the usual flow of European workers leading to job vacancy rates of up to 15 percent in industries like the meat processing sector. Yet, a more sobering concern is the aggravation of tensions in Northern Ireland, with inspection duties temporarily suspended at Larne and Belfast ports last year after staff faced death threats. DUP minister Edwin Poots ordered checks to be suspended again during February this year, as his colleague first minister Paul Givan resigned in protest over the Protocol. This is likely to cause serious problems for Britain’s relationship with the EU, particularly after the resignation of Lord Frost as Brexit minister. There are indications Northern Ireland could see its first Sinn Fein first minister in the May elections too, evoking fears that political conflict may return to Northern Ireland if separationist policies continue.

Josh Rutland, Deputy Politics Editor

Erasmus

Erasmus has been seen as an unexpected casualty of the Brexit process, with the United Kingdom leaving the EU and declining to take part in the scheme as an associated third country, replaced by the ‘Turing Scheme’, designed by the British Government to allow up to 35,000 students to work and travel internationally during their education. While the Erasmus scheme was limited to travel based in European states, the Turing Scheme aims to expand the network of travel further internationally and offers varying amounts of funding to match the destination chosen. However, the Turing Scheme has not been without complication, it is available currently for organisations to access, without students being able to access it on an individual basis. Funding is not available for teaching staff or college staff which would have previously been accepted under Erasmus. While the Turing Scheme has approved 372 projects for funding and has been guaranteed for further funding for the next three years, lack of publicity and barriers to individual applications continue to challenge students accessing international academic opportunities. Ultimately, the scheme risks becoming a symbol of patriotism, which just misses the mark.

Hannah Boyle, Deputy Politics Editor

International Trade

Brexit has undoubtedly complicated the ability of UK businesses to import and export easily. Businesses now have to prove that goods exported to the EU meet strict requirements which state that a certain percentage of the product has to be made within the UK or EU. Such complex rules has made it more difficult for the UK to recover from the effects of Covid-19, as the UK’s flow of trade relative to GDP is at its lowest level since 2009, whilst EU countries have largely recovered from where they were in March 2020. Ministers have sought to leverage the opportunity of no longer being in the single market by striking trade deals across emerging economies, in Asia Pacific especially. However, the 64 deals signed so far are roll over deals that replicate pre-Brexit conditions and deliver no new benefits. Even the genuinely new deals with Australia and New Zealand, centre-pieces of the Conservative’s election campaign, are estimated to grow UK GDP by only 0.08 percent over the next ten years. Nonetheless, the UK witnessed in 2021 the share of its international trade with non-EU countries become greater than those in the EU for the first time; leaving open the possibility that, for all of the dislocation suffered, the UK is now taking advantage of new markets.

Josh Cole, Deputy Business Editor

Travel Abroad

It is fair to say that in regards to post-Brexit holiday plans, uncertainty over travelling abroad has not dissipated. The many grievances people once had regarding the severity of visa requirements when travelling to countries in Europe have been partially eased but questions still need to be answered on how the post-Brexit plan will affect our everyday lives. Britons travelling abroad to EU countries within the ‘Schengen Zone’ for more than 90 days will soon require a form of travel authorisation pass in the form of ETIAS, an EU-based scheme. ETIAS is essentially a system that British passport holders will pay into regularly in order to gain travel access to all 26 EU countries. The same travel authorisation will apply to EU visitors to the UK too and the government have said they will have this set up over the course of this year. By 2025, electronic passes will be needed even just for short business trips and holidays. Visas, however, will soon be needed on a long-term basis. It remains to be seen what the longer term future will look like for travelling abroad but one thing is clear – sacrifices will have to be made by everyone.

Max Abdulgani

Fishing

You’d be hard-pushed to find an industry more impacted by Brexit than fishing. The 2021 post-Brexit trade deal has stipulated that licences are needed on both sides in order for fisheries to function on the right side of EU law. Boats from EU member states must have licences to fish in UK waters, with the same being true for UK boats looking to fish in the EU. This has become the latest in a long line of micro-rows between France and the UK since the latter voted to leave the European Union almost six years ago. The UK and Jersey refused licences to a number of French boats last October. The situation soured and led to French fishermen blocking the entry of UK boats to French ports. French President, Emmanuel Macron, addressed the press in November, saying: “We have not got what we wanted [and] we will not yield.”And he was right. The Europe minister for France, Clement Beaune, announced two days before Christmas that the French would be relaying their complaints to the specially set-up tribunal for Brexit (dis)agreements. So Brexit’s impact on fishing has thus far been to further complicate an industry already swimming in red tape.

Dom Smith, Sport Editor

Immigration

Immigration is one of the issues that initially characterised Brexit. Now, two years after the UK officially left the European Union, it could be argued that immigration has become less pre-dominant in our discussions of Brexit despite having a profound impact. Since leaving the EU, the British government has introduced a new points-based immigration system which it says will allow more skilled workers to enter the UK and begin working here. Before January 2021, EU citizens were free to move and work within the UK; since then, any EU citizen coming to live or work in the UK will need to apply for a visa. This shows the real impact Brexit has had on migrants and the desire of the British government to have a tighter grip on its borders. However, with the combined negative effects of Covid-19 as well as the complications people have experienced applying for settled status in the UK following Brexit, employers have found it increasingly hard to retain foreign staff who left the UK and are now trying to return. Furthermore, the restrictions on low-skilled workers entering the UK after Brexit has meant that employers, for example in the fruit-picking sector, have struggled to maintain enough workers to meet financial targets while continuing to operate in the same way as before Brexit.

Arun Kohli, Social Media Director

Sovereignty

A huge portion of the support for Brexit – and significant roadblocks in the following negotiation process - stemmed from a desire for the UK to reclaim its national sovereignty and have more control over its own legislation. In the two years since the UK’s withdrawal, we have seen many changes to British legislation in com-parison to our EU counter-parts, including the particularly notable abolishment of the so-called ‘tampon tax’ on sanitary products, which the EU requires to be set at 5 percent VAT. Such a divergence highlights the ways in which Brexit Britain has arguably had the ability to change for the better since 2020. However, with data protection laws remaining consistent and economic reliance forcing our major trade industries such as agriculture to remain aligned with the EU in order to compete, we can begin to question how effective Brexit has been in “taking back control” after all.

Hannah Carley, Features Editor

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