“The Brexit chickens are coming home to roost” a prominant person in the automotive industry told me during a discussion about the announcement by Michel Barnier that the UK would not benefit one jot from being outside of the single market and customs union.
Not only did Barnier warn that agricultural products would be checked – every single time – at the border, but key manufacturers such as Airbus would be equally affected.
Recently in a meeting where the supply chain for a well known household product was outlined – it was pointed out it crossed the channel five times in its manufacture and sales – that’s the size of the problem we have if the UK fails to scure a customs union deal with the EU.
Unite has been warning for over 12 months that this event would eventually happen.
But Theresa May, Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and David Davies have paid little heed to the voice of 100,000’s of skilled manufacturing workers who are now looking at their jobs being hit by stupidity and boneheadedness on the part of the Prime Minster and her Brexit team.
They have taken no notice of industry and unions who have all been clear on single market access, a customs union deal, key investment decisions, the need for a robust industrial strategy, defending decent employment rights and access to skills.
No doubt the right wing UK media who are now waking upto the fact we can’t really have ‘our cake and eat it‘ but will once again describe Barnier and Junker as ‘Euro bullies’, and advise Mrs. May to tell them where to stick it.
Will the horrors of lorries backed up to Watford on the M25, waiting to cross the channel while our ‘just in time’ supply chain structure – on which manufacturing depends – is laid to waste – even with the promised ‘special IT system’ (which the French probably won’t have) – finally cause industry to stand upto the hard Brextremists, who are hell bent on a policy that will eventually destroy manufacturing and tell ministers to get real.
I was asked in an interview were manufacturing employers ‘sabre rattling’ on investment and potential threats to jobs. The answer was no – and pointed to the warnings our union, Unite, has been outlining for over 12 months on the single market, customs union, skills etc.
The daunting task is now dawning on the Government. At a recent meeting with officials in a key department on the implications of Brexit on trade – one senior official bemoaned they could now see the “breadth of the problem”.
You can now feel the real concern among manufacturers and our members. Meanwhile Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsome look for scapegoats – blaming the BBC and media for not being pro-Brexit and ‘unpatriotic‘ – always a clear sign of unrest in the ranks.
This weekend Government ministers are meeting some employers bodies including the CBI, IOD, Chambers Of Commerce, the EEF, Federation of Small Businesses and some individual companies.
There are notable absences including a number of key trade associations and of course the voice of the workforce – the trade unions.
As one key player told me ‘they don’t speak for our industry’.
I am told that the select meeting at Chevening is called by the Government to listen to what industry is saying – and some employers have said “its a start”. But it is clear the Government needs to listen to the real voice of industry and the unions.
Time is not on our side.
Barnier and the EU 27 have got their ducks in a row, their negotiating strategy is understood and agreed by the 27 – so no chance of pealing them away one by one as had been a proposed tactic.
May’s threat to throw her teddy out of the pram and walk away will be reponsed to by a shrug of the shoulders – and the clock will keep ticking.
The blogger Jack of Kent put it succintly recently in his “Three things about Brexit” blog of 2nd July 2017:
“Since the referendum vote last summer for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, three things have become apparent.
- First, Brexit will be complex, not simple.
- Second, the UK government is not (or is not currently) equal to the task of Brexit.
- Third, regardless of the difficulties, the UK government is in any case making it worse for itself, to the extent it seems almost that it is self-sabotaging the whole process.
I do not claim any originality for these three insights; I just wanted to jot them down here, in one place”.
I would add a fourth item: Listen to the voice of those who make the country tick, who create the wealth, who employ 100,000s of workers in decent jobs if you fail – you do this at your peril.