Through a circuitous route I came across for the first time the digital online newspaper, Yorkshire Bylines and an article (from 4 May) which provides further insight into the Global Britain that awaits us post-Brexit.
It notes that currently around 50 million customs declarations are filled out annually for the UK’s trade with the rest of the world. The Road Haulage Association has estimated that even under a Canada-style trade deal between the EU and UK i.e. one that would eliminate most tariffs but still involve customs declarations, an additional 200 million forms could be generated each year.
There is mention of a report attributable to the Financial Times that the UK government is to recruit 50,000 more customs agents (for ‘form filling’) to handle post-Brexit trade, at a cost to industry of at least £1.5 billion a year.
For perspective, we are informed of a twitter contribution by Jean Claude Piris, a French diplomat and director-general of the EU Legal Service, who has pointed out (I suspect with some amusement!) that the extra 50,000 staff is more than the entire 33,000-employee payroll of the European Commission in Brussels!
The author of the Yorkshire Bylines piece, Anthony Robinson muses, with justification, that Margaret Thatcher and her minister Lord Cockfield, widely regarded as the driving force behind the European single market, “will be turning in their graves”. He recalls that the single market has been referred to as the “greatest bonfire of red tape in human history“. That achievement is now being undone for the UK and how!
Robinson notes: “The irony is that while bureaucrats in Brussels are engaged in reducing or eliminating border friction by harmonising standards across the bloc or negotiating free trade agreements, Britain’s army of customs agents will become border friction made flesh. They will be metaphorically shovelling sand into our own engine of international trade.”
I’m obliged to Peter May writing on 7 June in Progressive Pulse for the link to this characterisation by former Tory MP Matthew Parris, now of The Times, of the Prime Minster on whom we in this Union must rely:
“He never had any judgment or strategic vision. His powers of concentration have always been weak. There never was a golden age of Boris Johnson, never was this fabled creature of whom we now see only a poor shadow. Mr Johnson was only ever a shallow opportunist with a minor talent to amuse. No after-dinner speeches now. What at least he does realise is that this is not a time when his skills as a self-parodying light entertainer are called for. Sadly though, he doesn’t have any other skills.”
It is of no comfort that by a large majority we in Scotland saw through and rejected Mr Johnson and his party in 2019 – indeed we have rejected his party since the mid-1950s. However, it does make the potential damage to Scotland arising from the democratic deficit even greater and imminent – and therefore in urgent need of fixing!