Sausage wars and food rotting in the fields: 14 impacts of Brexit from this year

Britain has been outside the EU’s legal regime for a year and has faced a number of impacts

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Thursday 30 December 2021 12:47
<p>Shoppers have been faced with empty shelves</p>

Shoppers have been faced with empty shelves

Britain left the EU at the end of January 2020, but it was only at the start of 2021 that things started to change.

Up until that point the UK had been in a transition period – with all EU rules still applying.

The UK has now been cut loose from Brussels for a whole year: here are some of the effects Brexit has had.

Food rotting in the fields

There has been a shortage of seasonal agricultural labour

The end of free movement has made it harder for seasonal agricultural labourers to visit the UK, so many have cut it out of their schedule. British residents have shown little interest in doing the piecework, so thousands of tonnes of crops rotted in fields during the UK's picking season this year. Tory MP Roger Gale, who represents the community of Thanet, told the prime minister directly that one grower in his constituency had had to trash hundreds of thousands of pounds of produce.

British fisherman facing ruin

Fishing has been a major issue during Brexit

New bureaucracy introduced by Brexiteers has hurt the UK's fishing industry, with some long-running firms forced to close due to the extra costs leaving the EU has imposed. The situation is particularly difficult for exporters of shellfish who face not only new paperwork and catch certificates, but delays at the border that can spoil and entire consignment. Boris Johnson has blamed exporters for not filling in forms correctly. Some shellfish exports to the EU are also now banned completely. Fishing chiefs described the Brexit deal as a “betrayal” which failed to secure many promised benefits.

A shortage of lorry drivers

Brexit has been a factor in the UK’s lorry driver shortage

The government was forced to launch an emergency visa scheme for lorry drivers this year after the country was faced with a 100,000 person HGV driver shortage. While the shortfall has many causes, changes to rules following Brexit made it harder for drivers to work in the UK and customs procedures are said to have made their job more complicated – causing many to simply work elsewhere.

Fuel shortages on UK forecourts

There haven’t been enough people to drive tankers

One result of the driver shortage was that there have not always been enough people to drive fuel tankers around Britain. As a result, many petrol stations have been going unsupplied – with the problem hitting especially hard in the autumn. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted that Brexit had "no doubt" been a factor in the fuel shortages.

Empty supermarket shelves

Many items have gone missing since the UK opted to leave

New customs and border red tape caused by Brexit has been blamed for the gaps on many supermarket shelves that have opened up this year in the UK. Compounded by the lorry driver shortage, supermarkets have sometimes struggled to stock many basic goods, with gaps appearing noticeably more frequently that before the UK left the bloc.

An impending chilled meats ban across the Irish Sea

Like laws, they say you should never see how sausages are made

The EU has repeatedly delayed the introduction of a ban on so-called "chilled meats" from Great Britain into Northern Ireland. If it comes in the ban will make it impossible to export sausages across the Irish Sea. The ban is under negotiation as part of a row over the governance arrangements of Northern Ireland after Brexit.

Unrest in Northern Ireland and threats against port workers

A lorry arrives at Larne port in Antrim

The Northern Ireland protocol, which was negotiated by the British government, has angered the territory's loyalist community and led to threats against port workers. As a result, some border checks have been stopped as a safety precaution. Riots in Northern Ireland have also been partly attributed to the tensions caused by the Brexit deal.

Online shopping from the EU has got more expensive

Online shopping from the EU has become a lot more expensive

Leaving the EU single market and customs union has also resulted in British consumers being hit with vast charges for trying to buy things from the EU. Though many people had got used to shopping without borders, that is now over, with customs duties and fees imposed on all sorts of mundane transactions, often dwarfing the price of the original purchase.

Mobile roaming charges make a comeback

Roaming charges have made a comeback thanks to Brexit

Anyone who got used to using their phone abroad in recent years will have to snap out of it: roaming charges were abolished by the EU, and have made a comeback in a big way since Britain left the block.

A 4% hit to the economy over the long run

The UK is expected to take an economic hit

The government's own calculations now put the hit to the economy at around 4% of GDP – which is the latest calculation of the Office for Budget Responsibility. The OBR says this effect is around twice the hit expected from the Covid-19 pandemic, whose impact they put at a 2% hit.

Amsterdam surpasses London as a share trading hub

The City was once unrivalled as a financial powerhouse

Billions of euros in financial trades moved to Amsterdam overnight as new rules banned EU firms from settling transactions in London. €6.5bn (£5.7bn) of daily transactions move from the UK on 1 January – around half of London’s European share trading business.

Disabled people stripped of blue badge rights on holiday

Blue badges help people with reduce mobility park cars closer to where they need to go

People with disabilities travelling to EU countries can no longer automatically expect to use their blue badges – which entitle them to parking and other disabled services. The UK hoped to negotiate deals to keep the perk of membership, but has been unsuccessful with the largest holiday distinations such as Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Greece .

Musicians and artists hit by visa red-tape

Borders have become harder to cross since Brexit

But the impact of Brexit isn't only financial: like all Brits, musicians have overnight been stripped of their free movement rights, with no exceptions in the trade deal made for touring artists. Industry figures have warned of an "existential threat" to smaller bands who would normally raise their money by touring abroad but for whom it is no longer economical.

Trade losses 178 times bigger than gains

Leaving the world’s largest trade bloc is expected to damage the UK

The government has tried to sell trade deals as a major benefit of leaving the EU. They argue that they can sign new trade deals with other countries. But in reality this hasn't materialised: analysis by the UK Trade Policy Observatory has found that the hit from Brexit will be 178 times bigger than any expected gains from new trade deals.

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