Paperwork and mobile phone charges
As the long-awaited Brexit deal snuck out on Christmas Eve most people had already gone home. Or turned off their computers, what with many of us only commuting from our bedrooms to our kitchen tables these days.
The conspiracy-minded will detect shenanigans in the timetabling, although they would do well to recall Hanlon’s Razor: never attribute to malice what is adequately explained by stupidity. This year has shown the government does not know what is going on. But then governments rarely do, so that’s not entirely surprising.
What we have known for a while is that Brexit will cost Britain some money as trading into and out of the European Union becomes more difficult. This was, in essence, the main remainer argument during the referendum campaign.
Under the agreed deal tariffs and quotas have been waived, which is to say that businesses won’t be charged to trade goods across the border and there will be no quantity limits on given goods. There will still be extra paperwork, including customs forms for businesses that didn’t previously need them.
Economists still nonetheless expect some damage to the British economy in the form of reduced economic growth over the medium to long term. When the data bears this out remainer pundits will be able to file smug columns explaining why they were right all along, which some people are presumably still reading.
However, the problem with citing economic data is that people will disbelieve it if it doesn’t reflect the facts on the ground. Earlier in December Sarah O’Connor wrote an interesting piece in the Financial Times noting that glowing employment data is justifiably rejected by the public when it fails to reflect their lived experience of crap jobs and reduced hours.
In a similar vein I was struck by the Tesco chair John Allan’s comment that the impact on food prices would be “very modest indeed” under the Brexit deal. A country’s GDP is important, but people experience the economy through the price of milk pints, to quote a phrase. (Though naturally I buy my almond milk in effete litres.)
Alongside the economic costs, remainers cite loss of freedoms. As Will Hutton writes in the Observer, “Next Friday Britons will lose the freedom to live, work, and trade in goods and services as they choose throughout the EU. Once natural rights are to be torched.”
The trouble for Hutton is that most Britons do not want to live or work in the rump EU, as evinced by the emigration statistics. Partly this is because most people living in rich countries are disinclined to move abroad, even on a short-term basis, and partly it’s because when Britons do move they are more likely to go to Australia or the United States than any given EU country.
Our ability to move to Slovenia will therefore be less interesting to most Britons than whether they are, for example, charged extra for mobile phone data when they’re abroad. To which the answer is quite possibly, given that service providers will be allowed to raise such charges at the end of the transition period.
While lofty notions of GDP forecasting, sovereignty and defence co-operation have frequently dominated the Brexit debate, success or failure will be judged by the public in how it affects their daily lives. And whether the unsavoury uncle they had a Christmas Zoom with is a racist gammon or treacherous elitist, of course.
It’s been a quiet Christmas for me writing-wise, but I still having some hawking to do.
Some of you may have missed my advocation for more devolving of powers to cities and counties, as per Keir Starmer’s constitutional commission. This has proven as popular as other constitutional schemes I’ve argued for in The Article, with 56% of readers agreeing with me as of writing – more than enough to justify a hard devo.
In festive spirits I also wrote about failure, prompted by a piece from an old schoolmate of mine. Kieran Kenlock was a talented footballer with Crystal Palace FC’s youth programme, but unfortunately not talented enough to go pro. You should also read his touching account of dealing with that loss.
It has become traditional to say what a shitter this year has been – a unifying statement for divisive times. Hopefully next year will be better, in part because of newly-launched email newsletters. If you’ve enjoyed this please forward it on to whichever poor sod you suspect is still checking their inbox in the no man’s land between Christmas and New Year.