Some Good from Brexit?

Now that Covid is starting (hopefully) to retreat, the UK is left with just Brexit to contend with. But unfortunately, there is no vaccine or other relatively quick fix for this.

Regardless of how you voted, the matter is now settled – there is no going back, cap in hand, even if we could swallow our national pride to do so. So it could be that the next nation that the EU welcomes is Scotland, and after that, Northern Ireland as part of a united Ireland.

We can argue about the causes of the current shortage of goods, including beer. Covid has a part to play, but the shake-up caused by Brexit could last longer. This disruption could last months or possibly years; certainly, this Christmas looks like a wash-out.

None of this is remotely good for an economy attempting to recover from a pandemic or public companies attempting to fend off corporate raiders looking for a cheap deal.

However, Brexit could yet deliver part of its promise, though not the promise longed for by those seeking greater deregulation and a race to the bottom for standards and pay.

The current shortage of workers in transport, agriculture, hospitality, healthcare, and almost every other sector finally gives workers more bargaining power. Of course, we are not ones to support industrial action automatically, but we do in the case of drivers. Over the past two decades, commercial drivers have suffered falling pay, loss of employment rights and pension rights and poor working conditions. Now that their skills are in short supply, it is time to flex their collective muscle.

For too long, businesses have enjoyed cheap labour, despite minimum wage legislation. Some have also relied upon benefits to raise their workers out of working poverty – when that should be the role of the employer – not taxpayers.

Businesses such as Wetherspoons have now been hit by a perfect storm of reduced labour availability, reduced beer availability and other rising costs due to inflation. Covid has not been kind to Wetherspoons, but Brexit will be even less forgiving.

Unions are also sensing this is their moment; under new leadership, the Unite union has decided to take on poor employers now. Their first target looks likely to be Amazon, particularly as Christmas is coming and Amazon will soon need many more workers.

Many people voted for Brexit due to poor pay and prospects – Brexit now needs to deliver in a way that many of its cheerleaders were not expecting – higher pay and better working conditions.

It is time for Brexit to deliver its unexpected promise.

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