Review and Synopsis of Brexit without the Bullshit – By Gavin Esler.
Gavin Esler is a Scottish journalist, television presenter, author and Chancellor of the University of Kent.
The book Nigel Farage doesn’t want you to read. Published by the Canbury Press and available from Blackwell’s.
This is an account of the damage Brexit has already done, continues to do and will do to Britain and its people especially in the worst case scenario of a no deal unless we stop it. A highly readable book, of 172 pages, packed with information, it offers a thorough and well-researched analysis. Reading this book, at first I felt depressed. Then angry. That made me determined to publish this review and synopsis. It’s the least I can do.
Britain has long been admired for its institutions, its universities, enterprise, arts and culture. Many foreign leaders have studied here. Hitherto it has been a tolerant multi-cultural society though a lot of abusive, even violent behaviour has been let loose since Brexit emerged. It has enjoyed soft power, able to punch above its size. Despite its out-dated democracy, people can protest without being imprisoned, tortured or shot. We have a free, though predominantly right-wing, press, much of it a poor source if you wish to be well-informed. Britain has been seen as a good place to do business and a place to “get on”. It has a long history of migrants coming here and making valuable contributions.
Britain is a representative democracy. We elect MPs to make decisions on our behalf. Yet David Cameron called a referendum which produced an almost equally divided result. It also divided the United Kingdom and divided the people. Importantly, for many people it was an opportunity to express their anger at Westminster for having failed to address their concerns for over a generation, the failure to rebuild the economy outside London. Leave won by 51.9% to 48.1% and the UK as a whole is now deeply divided. Instead, Citizens’ Assemblies and Constitutional Conventions provide useful ways of bringing people together, getting to the root of discontents, reaching consensus and deciding the way forward.
Now our government and parliament are seen as incompetent, a laughing stock. We have lost the respect of other nations. Our place in the global world is small. Our soft power diminished. Throughout the world Prime Minister Boris Johnson is regarded as a sad joke. Many business leaders no longer see the UK as a good place to do business and are moving elsewhere or shifting parts of their business to EU countries. We have been misled and hijacked by a group of selfish, ambitious people ignorant of the facts, and likely consequences of Brexit, careless of the truth, unconcerned about the future of young people and those who will suffer most.
Leadership. Our country is full of inspiring, visionary leaders in all walks of life, people who create great initiatives and are essentially servant leaders. But, partly because of the flaws in our out-dated unwritten constitution, they are not represented at the top of levels government. Thus far no great political leaders have emerged capable of putting the nation’s interests first and getting us out of this mess. That does not mean they are not there. We have a narcissist Prime Minister, full of bluster but light on truth and competence, elected by 92,153 members of the Tory Party or 0.13 percent of the population. How could a democratic constitution produce such a result? Many people are in despair.
Benefits from EU Membership It is important to understand the benefits Britain and other EU countries gain from membership and the financial contributions we make. This Commons Library briefing looks at the funding received by the UK from EU institutions and considers the implications of Brexit on the EU as a source of funding for regional development, agriculture support, research and innovation and other areas. The EU funds its economically disadvantaged regions . The EU spends a fifth of its budget on “regional development”: That’s €200 billion to support universities, roads, businesses, banks and more. This analysis shows how the European Union’s regions benefit from EU funding.
Chapter by Chapter
The Facts on Food, Health and the NHS, Our Money and Our Jobs and Our Children’s Education. Frequently I shall paraphrase Gavin Esler’s text.
Chapter 1: Brexit & Our Food
Britain imports more food than it produces. Half our food comes from other countries, 30% from the EU. Depending on the form of Brexit, our food will become more expensive. Tariffs at borders will not help get fresh food onto the shelves. We are already suffering a shortfall of seasonal workers, 12.5 % by 2017, as a result of Brexit related uncertainty, “Brexodus”, and the fall in the value of the pound. Our farmers export a lot of food to EU countries, especially meat. It is fantasy to imagine that we can easily negotiate trade deals with countries such as the USA. But most importantly in a warming world, it is vital that we cut “food miles”. So it is better to buy from nearby Europe when possible. Of course there are flaws in the EU policy of subsidising large farmers most (95% goes to the wealthiest farmers). The EU policy of registering only a few varieties of seeds for sale reduces food diversity. That endangers food security . The fishery policy makes no sense to many fishermen. We need to be at the table and press for reform.
Food poverty. The continuing slide in the pound means higher prices that will affect the poorest citizens most severely. Food inflation hit a five-year high of 2.5% in 2019, partly as a result of bad weather. The Trussell Trust runs 400 food banks but the total may be around 2000 and users may be half a million. 10% of children in UK are living in severe food uncertainty. Higher prices will lead to more hungry families and more hungry children unable to concentrate at school. Certainly we could and should produce more of our own food but not all of it. We need variety.
British shoppers have benefitted from low taxes on goods from other EU states and trade deals made by EU negotiators with countries such as Japan which would otherwise have taken years. It is folly to think that we, a small country, could rapidly replicate these, to the same high standards as in the case of food, on our own. Do we really want chlorinated chicken, GM crops, industrial agriculture, with its reliance on synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation that has come at a cost to the environment and local communities.
Chapter 2: Brexit and the NHS
“We send the EU £350 million a week” written on the side of a bus as if this might be available for extra spending on the NHS when we left the EU was a big untruth. It took no account of all the payments currently made by the EU for the support of agriculture and scientific research and much more. More reliable figures are here .
Two thirds of us would be prepared to pay more for a better NHS .
However these figures are just part of the total picture. There is unhappiness in UK with the services we receive, long delays and the shortage of hospital beds. Bed crises are unknown in Germany. The UK has fewer than three beds per 1000 citizens whereas Germany has eight and France six. We are being squeezed. The NHS is at the top of the league of efficiency and in 11 advanced countries and its resilience and efficiency are outstanding. But because of Brexit the economy is being squeezed. From having the highest growth rate in the G7 we have slipped to the lowest and productivity has suffered, much of this as a result of Brexit uncertainty. This means the money available to fund the NHS is less and health care funding is likely to come from a shrinking cake.
Drugs The post-referendum drop in the pound has made importing pharmaceuticals more expensive. The NHS is the biggest byer of drugs in the world. That means it can drive a hard bargain but the cost of drugs is rising above inflation. A fall in the pound makes drugs more expensive if they are not available in the UK. The book gives details of where various drugs come from many of which come from the EU. Supplies could be held up at the border if we are outside the EU.
Staff shortages Long waiting times caused by staff shortages and lack of facilities are a key concern. So is a lack of social care. Some 10% of staff come from the EU. The author gives Homerton University Hospital as an example. Motivated staff from all over the world happy working together. Staff comment on enjoying working with people from around the world. The NHS is proud of its diversity. Since Brexit, staff are harder to find. Many have returned to Europe.
Patients waiting more than four hours to be treated in NHS Accident and Emergency units in England rose from 353,617 in 2010 to 2,778,687 in 2018. The NHS employs around 1.7 million people, 1.2 million in England. It is unclear to what extent staff shortages are attributable to Brexit as opposed to the policy of “austerity” and an incoherent approach to workforce policy at a national level, poor workforce planning and inadequate training places.
Social care 400,000 people live in adult social care homes. Finding caring people to work in 11,000 adult care homes has never been easy. Pay is low. In 2018 the vacancy rate in the 1.4 million jobs was 6.6%. And the Nuffield Trust calculates that by 2025-6 we may be short of as many as 70,000 care workers if migration of unskilled workers is halted or seriously disrupted. Post-Brexit, the situation may be even worse. If EU workers are replaced they will have to come from Asia or Africa or wages will have to be substantially raised.
The cost of medicines. There is considerable information about the damage already done and what more we stand to lose here. Briefly, the European Medicines Agency has already quit London. Financing for the NHS from European sources will dry up. UK will be less attractive to launch new medicines and their availability in UK could be delayed. Brexit will harm the UK’s European and global leadership in health. US Big Pharm will see opportunities to “invade” the NHS and remove barriers such as and the independence of NICE (National Institute for Health Care Excellence. Nigel Farage’s statements about moving from a tax-payer funded NHS to private health insurance are noted. Finally, under the withdrawal agreement reciprocal health care arrangements will end after 2020 and those of us who travel to Europe will need private health insurance.
Chapter 3: Brexit, Our Jobs & Our Money
“Brexit has profoundly affected our money, our family finances, our jobs, our economic security and our future prosperity since 2016”. The drop in the value of the pound is only part of it. The actual or looming departure of manufacturers, entrepreneurs, financial services and other employers has done lasting damage to the UK economy, jobs, businesses and capacity to innovate all pointing to a poorer Britain. How can a responsible government allow this and indeed help it happen?
The Jobs Lost Index estimates that from June 2016 to April 2019, 218,839 jobs have been lost due to Brexit and annual wages lost add up to £6.27 bn. Losses in annual income tax and national insurance amount to 1.8 bn. Top of the list of job losses by region are Midlands, London, South West Wales and North East in descending order. Sectors in the same order are Auto, Transport, Food and Drink, Finance and Construction. “Just in time “supply chains are part of it”.
Britain is poorer. We were seen as a land of opportunities. EU citizens working here bring value and put in more than they take out. They are not a drain. It is estimated they bring a net contribution of £78,000 to the exchequer over a lifetime. Predictions that Brexit would make us poorer were right. Altogether we are poorer than we would have been had it not been for Brexit. And any form of Brexit is likely to make us poorer still. GDP grew 2.3 % in 2015. In 2018 it fell to 1.4%. The London School of Economics estimated that since June 2016, the economy lost 2% of expected GDP, or £40bn per year, £800m per week – more than twice the £350 claimed on the side of the bus. We live in the world’s fifth largest economy but one fifth of its population (14 million people) live in poverty and 1.5 million of them experienced destitution in 2017. Close to 40 % of children are predicted to be living in poverty by 2021. Philip Alston, the UN’s poverty expert said “sustained and widespread cuts to social support” are “in clear violation of the country’s human rights obligations”.
Chapter 4: Brexit & Our Children’s Education
British schools and educationalists see problems ahead. Language teaching is important if we wish to be Global Britain. GCSE language learning courses have dropped by up to 50% since 2013.Germanand French have fallen most. Britain has a worldwide reputation for education. We have some of the best universities and schools in the world. This is part of soft power. Visitors generate 200,000 jobs in university towns and students and their visitors spending generate 25.8bn gross output in the UK and £10.8bn export earnings.
Teachers Membership of the EU has allowed teachers to come here with their qualifications recognised to teach. The knowledge economy has benefitted from free movement. State schools often short of teachers have relied on foreign teachers. Without EU teachers these shortages would have been much greater. There are about 450,000 full time equivalent EU teachers in England. However, from 2017 -18 EU teachers were 25% down including a drop of 33% from Poland partly as a result of bad publicity about racially motivated attacks. Leaving the EU is expected to worsen shortages.
Some £3bn European Structural Funding (ESF) helps pay for local projects with young people, libraries and adult learning will also come to an end.
Universities, Soft Power and Brexit Much of Britain’s success in the world depended on brain power and exchanging ideas and theories with other peoples. For decades Britain has attracted people from around the world. This pull is weakening. So instead, English private schools are exploring expansion on mainland Europe.
Great leadership will ultimately emerge. And there is a good chance that this folly will be prevented. My conclusion is that no deal is better than remaining in the EU with a seat at the table. We have been let down by our government and collectively by our representatives. We ordinary citizens will have to use our power and fight for Remain, for reform of the EU and fundamental reform of the United Kingdom constitution. See my proposals Re-imagining Politics – A Collaborative Democracy
Actions I suggest are:
Talk with your MP
Campaigns to Stop Brexit
Another Europe is Possible, European Movement UK, People’s Vote Campaign, Scientists for EU, Remainer Now.
Support campaigns for political reform: The Young People’s Party, For our Future’s Sake, Our Future Our Choice, UK Youth Parliament, Compass-The Progressive Alliance, The Electoral Reform Society , Citizens Assembly Project, Unlock Democracy, Make Votes Matter, Counting Women In, 50:50 Parliament, Women’s Equality Party, Voice4 Change, People’s Vote and many more.
Bruce gives talks on the situation we are in and what is to be done. Contact me from my website Creating a just, sustainable, non-violent world .