Blog: Brexit impact largely confined to business 15 July 2021 Free – Irish Farmers Journal

The decision by the UK to leave the EU was taken by everyone entitled to vote in the referendum.

Six months on from Brexit, there is correctly a general consensus that, for most people, there has been no noticeable difference.

The effect of Brexit is largely confined to business and even within that sector, some areas are little impacted, while others have the opposite experience.

For the general public, the most apparent change may have been if air travel and holidays had been continuing as normal pre-pandemic.

EU citizens living in the UK have had to seek settled status and it is vice versa for UK citizens living in the EU.

It is also a problem for owners of holiday homes outside where they are citizens due to the three-month maximum residency period.

However, all these examples apply to a relatively small number of people.

Biggest impact on small business

In business, it is the same. Small UK food businesses are effectively eliminated from EU markets because of the cost and burden of veterinary certification and the logistics of delivery.

It has been extremely difficult for beef and sheepmeat exporters, with the volume of exports down 80% for beef and 33% for sheepmeat.

Lower production in Britain for the first four months of 2021 is part of the explanation, but so also is the difficulty of doing business.

Trade to the UK from the EU has been unaffected, largely because the UK doesn’t begin implementing border controls until 1 October, with full implementation, including checks, scheduled from January 2022.

This is when the impact of Brexit will be fully felt by Irish exporters.

Pandemic blurs impact

The existence of a global pandemic at the same time as the UK withdrew from the EU single market has resulted in other developments that are making business increasingly difficult, but it is difficult to decide whether it is Brexit or the pandemic that is the cause.

Brexit is most immediately felt by business, but, ultimately, increased costs get passed on to consumers through inflation.

The first of these concerns transport and availability of qualified lorry drivers.

Demand for smaller deliveries has increased with the growth of online shopping, but drivers for lorries with containers attached have become very scarce.

A good number of these operating in the UK were EU nationals, but it is impossible to apportion which of Brexit or the pandemic has influenced their decision to no longer work in the UK.

The other is for seasonal farm labour – traditionally English fruit and vegetables that required manual labour looked to seasonal workers from the EU.

No doubt the pandemic has discouraged travel, but Brexit is also a likely influence in scarcity here as well. It is also an issue for the wider food industry as well.

Extra costs will find their way to consumers

All of these issues have a major impact on businesses, but, in many cases, will go unnoticed by most citizens.

It seems inevitable that there will be extra cost in doing business and this will, in time, be passed on to consumers.

There will be no avoiding any inflation that occurs, but it is reasonable to conclude that many citizens will not make the link.

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