Fish may be Brexit’s catch 22, but Frost still has to net a deal
“Brexit” wasn’t mentioned at all when Rishi Sunak stood up in parliament to present his Spending Review last week. He did say that the economy was experiencing its worst dip in 300 years, pushing government borrowing to its highest peacetime level. But the government had done wonders to keep things afloat! And if things were grim, it was all the fault of the coronavirus...
Indeed, according to Sunak this has nothing to do with Brexit “uncertainty”, nor the ongoing capitalist crisis from which no country in the world has, nor will, fully “recover”. He said absolutely nothing about the further 4% Brexit dip to come, whether there is a trade deal or not. Nor the predicted extra 2% per year “hit” to GDP if there is no deal!
This Brexiteer Chancellor is singing the same song as his boss, that “Britain will prosper mightily”, deal or no deal - whether it’s true or not. And of course it’s codswallop.
Negotiations, going right to the wire, are currently stuck on the issue of fishing rights, even though fishing contributes just 0.1% to British GDP: it’s all hanging on how the (free) fish get shared out between British and EU boats.
Currently non-British boats catch 35% of their fish along the British coast, and chief negotiator “Lord” Frost, is trying to use this “leverage” for all it’s worth, claiming that these are all “British” fish! Now that Britain is leaving the EU, it must be allowed to “take back control” of “its” waters and assert its “independence”!
As if, in this inter-connected, small world which we all share, there could really be such a thing as “independence”. Whatever Frost may say, the real issue is in fact Britain’s “dependence” on the EU. Just like farming, fishing needs the EU market. As much as 70% of the catch is sold in Europe. If subjected to “no deal” tariffs, Britain’s fishing industry will collapse! And it’s not just about fish: in 2019, 43% of all British exports went to the EU.
So Frost will have no option but to melt. There will have to be a deal, not just for the sake of fishing, but for the car industry which needs to maintain its supply chain; for the NHS to carry on getting its vital medicines; for students to pursue their studies; for the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement to remain intact. And even so, the red tape and checks are going to cause huge hold-ups.
Already this break with Europe has done damage. Most recently, in the face of a Covid pandemic, it has deprived the NHS of nurses and doctors who no longer felt welcome in Britain.
We can, however, hope that after Brexit, the absurdity of national borders and the rules preventing free movement of people and things, will become obvious to all, along with the need to get rid of them for good!