The huge cost of leaving Europe has been laid bare just as surveys reveal that voters are increasingly turning against Boris Johnson’s disastrous trading deal which came into effect at the beginning of the year.
Newly published figures show the value of British exports to the EU has fallen by billions since the UK left. Food and Drink Federation (FDF) figures reveal that exports in the sector fell by 15.9% in the nine months to September, compared to 2019.
The FDF said this represents a staggering loss of around £2.7 billion. In the third quarter of the year alone, exports were down 13.5% compared to 2019.
The FDF report says the fall was “largely driven by a drop in sales to the EU”. The data shows exports to the EU fell by 13.9% compared to 2020 and 23.7% compared to 2019 – a loss of £2.4bn.
Brexit doesn’t have to be like this. We got the worst possible Brexit, at the worst possible time
James Withers, the head of Scotland Food and Drink, said the figures painted “a bleak picture”. He said a fall of £1.3bn in the value of exports to the EU compared to the first nine month of 2020 showed “the price of Brexit”.
“Brexit doesn’t have to be like this. We got the worst possible Brexit, at the worst possible time,” he said.
Evidence has emerged that voters are hardening against the disastrous deal Boris Johnson negotiated in the last desperate days before Britain was due to crash out of Europe without agreeing trade arrangements.
A study by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) carried out in August has found that only 12 per cent of people believed Britain got a good deal – down from 21 per cent in January.
It’s not just those voters who wanted to remain in Europe who believe the deal is terrible. Leave voters are no longer more likely to consider the deal a good one. In fact 36 per cent now say it is bad against 22 per cent who say it is good.
In January support for the deal among leave voters was 35 per cent, while 22 per cent thought it was a bad deal.
The latest survey reveals that even more remain voters now have a poor view of the deal, with 66 per cent saying the deal was a bad one, up from 53 per cent in January.
The Brexit deal is being criticised from two directions – those opposed to the policy in principle and those who dislike the way it has been implemented
The study was overseen by respected political scientist John Curtice, a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde. He said the results showed people were going off the deal – but for different reasons.
He said: “The Brexit deal is being criticised from two directions – those opposed to the policy in principle and those who dislike the way it has been implemented in practice.
“People on the remain side of the debate are relatively united in their dislike of an outcome whose principal objective is one that they opposed in the first place. Meanwhile, some on the leave side feel that the UK is still tied too closely to the EU’s orbit, while others would have preferred a softer Brexit.’’
A slump in exports isn’t the only disaster to befall the UK since the terms of the deal kicked in on January 1. Restriction on EU workers coming to the UK has caused lorry driver and seasonal worker shortages. As a result deliveries of food and goods have been disrupted, fruit and vegetables have been left rotting at farms and hotels and restaurants have introduced restricted opening hours because they cannot find enough staff.
The UK government is currently trying to renegotiate parts of the withdrawal agreement relating to Northern Ireland, which retained access to the EU single market to prevent a hard border with the republic of Ireland.
The UK government’s appetite for perpetual conflict with the EU is not shared by British public, according to a report on post-Brexit foreign policy.
“The Johnson government seems to need the perennial fights of a permanent Brexit,” the report by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) thinktank, said, warning that its approach was “eroding the UK’s capacity to cooperate with the EU”.
At the same time, it said, “the British public do not have any particular animus towards the EU” and while they do “value British sovereignty and independence, they would support a foreign policy that worked cooperatively with the bloc”.
More broadly, the UK government’s vision for “Global Britain” aimed “to restore British greatness as a maritime trading nation”, the report said – but the evidence showed it amounted to little more than “a delusion rooted in a misremembered imperial past”.
Public disillusionment with Boris Johnson has been further boosted by controversies over lockdown parties held in Downing Street and Conservative Party HQ.
The Conservatives lost North Shropshire, a seat they had held for nearly 200 years, to the Liberal Democrats in a by-election on Thursday night.