We don’t know what government wants from Brexit but we know we’re already losing jobs & people

Unknown: what UK wants from Brexit. Known: we’re already losing jobs and people. And it will be difficult to get them back.

There’s still a lot of unknowns about Brexit. Talks have begun on a withdrawal agreement but talks on a future trade agreement won’t begin until progress is made on the former. This is just as well given the biggest unknown seems to be what the government wants from Brexit. Rachel Sylvester points out in The Times the issue of our relationship with Europe is one that has long split the Tory party. She adds that instead of the referendum healing the party’s internal divide, it has “infected the wound and spread the contagion to the country.” Quite!

There isn’t just a simple divide between Europhiles and Eurosceptics. As more information comes about the detail of Brexit, more divides are likely to emerge. Take chlorinated chicken, which made headlines this week, as an example. The government has refused to rule out lifting a ban on it as part of a US-UK trade deal. If the UK does lift the ban to get a deal with the US, it would mean weakening the UK’s current food and animal welfare standards.

The Telegraph reports Trade secretary Liam Fox and Foreign secretary Boris Johnson as backing the inclusion of agriculture in any trade deal and therefore opening up the possibility of lifting the ban. But both the current and former Environment secretary, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom, are against lifting the ban. According to the report, they say that cheap, poor quality imports could damage British farming. So even leading Brexiteers are split. And as Stephen Bush writes in the New Statesman, a row about chlorinated chicken is just the beginning.

There are splits on Brexit in the main opposition party too. Yesterday, Labour’s shadow Trade secretary Barry Gardiner wrote in the Guardian saying the UK should leave both the single market and customs union, post-Brexit. It was the strongest statement made against staying in the customs union made by a Labour frontbencher. But today, a spokesperson for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared to be in conflict with this with a spokesperson telling Business Insider “we need to be flexible in our approach and not sweep options off the table”. The spokesperson should remind Corbyn of this given he appeared to rule out keeping single market membership on the table on Sunday during an interview on the Andrew Marr Show.

Something that is easily missed amidst the political drama is the impact Brexit is already having. Unlike our post-Brexit future, there are already a few things that are now known. In the government’s failure to provide clarity and certainty, businesses are already preparing and enacting contingency plans for a “no deal” scenario. Jobs have already been lost to other European cities and according to one banking chief executive, it will be “nearly impossible” for the UK to get those jobs back. Speaking to Bloomberg TV, Julius Baer Group chief executive Boris Collardi said “it will take a decade if at all and a perfect constellation for these jobs to move again”. You can see more in the clip below.

The latest migration statistics show signs that fewer people are moving to the UK whilst more migrants in the UK are choosing to leave. And a new report by the London Chambers of Commerce found a third of businesses in London have already lost workers as a result of Brexit. It appears that even before the government has formulated its post-Brexit immigration policy, the country is no longer as attractive a prospect as it used to be. Whilst this has consequences for a number of UK industries, it has also helped vacancies within the NHS rise by 10% in the last year. The Nursing & Midwifery Council report a 96% drop in the number of nurses from the EU registering to work in the UK. Speaking to Sky News, Labour’s shadow health spokesperson Justin Madders said “we know that Brexit has led to a massive reduction in the EU nationals that work here in the health service and we know that figures show more midwives are leaving the profession than joining it for the first time in the history of the NHS”.

Damage to the UK as a result of Brexit is already being done. And it may not be so easy to undo.

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