Blog: Brexit has left Roger Ratcliffe with nothing much to coo about – Big Issue North

Never mind chickens coming home to roost because of Brexit – there’s a bit of a problem with pigeons. I doubt anyone in the largely Leave-voting area of South Yorkshire foresaw that post-EU it would be almost impossible for pigeon racers to continue releasing birds in France and Spain for homeward flights to garden lofts from Doncaster to Dronfield.

“Pigeon fanciers in a flap about Brexit” was one local headline, and it’s easy to understand why they are, well, spitting feathers. New rules require them to have a health certificate signed by a vet for each pigeon before sending their prize birds to Europe. Even then each pigeon has to remain in the EU for 21 days before racing. As a result most fanciers will find the costs prohibitive and no longer be able to compete in pigeon races, a popular sport in former mining areas.

Six months on from Brexit this is one of the lesser-known realities of what it means to leave the European Union. I don’t remember anyone mentioning pigeons during the 2016 referendum campaign, possibly because all attention was focused on Johnson’s £350 million for the NHS lie. We were told that life would be so much better because “we hold all the cards”.
In the words of the prime minister we would get “an oven-ready deal, gas mark four for 20 minutes, and Bob’s your uncle”.

Now the government is shrugging its shoulders and admitting to “bumps along the road to Brexit success”. But these bumps are emerging on a daily basis, turning the UK’s promised superhighway to independence into a pot-holed cinder track.

Among the first of those bumps was the announcement that one of Britain’s biggest seafood businesses, Bridlington-based Baron Shellfish, has been forced to close after 40 years of exporting lobster and crabs to the EU. Another casualty was the Cheshire Cheese Company at Macclesfield, which lost £250,000 annual exports to the EU because of red tape and halted expansion plans.

Food and drink exports from the UK to the EU have been worst affected by Brexit, plunging by around 85 per cent in January. By the end of February the trade in all goods was down by 23 per cent. There’s plenty more statistics where those came from, proof that the warnings dismissed as Project Fear in 2016 were, in fact, part of Project Truth.

Last week’s BBC Panorama on the reality of Brexit revealed some of the problems it has created. Of these you can’t get more absurd than the haulage firm which had to pay for its English drivers to take tests for HGV licenses in the Republic of Ireland so they can drive Dutch-registered trucks. Another absurdity is that 2,300 UK companies have had to relocate to the EU, and consequently will pay taxes there rather than to HM Treasury.

The bumps go on and on. There’s the threat to peace in Northern Ireland because of Johnson’s lie that Brexit would not put a border down the Irish Sea. There’s the greater alienation of Scotland, the loss of EU workers now affecting the NHS, farming and hospitality sectors, the loss of health cover in 27 countries, the higher mobile phone charges when travelling…

Six months on from Brexit, pigeons may not be flying. But the chickens are certainly coming home to roost.

Roger Ratcliffe has worked as an investigative journalist with the Sunday Times Insight team and is the author of guidebooks to Leeds and Bradford. Follow him on Twitter @Ratcliffe

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