I am very proud to say that I voted to remain as part of the European Union in the referendum a few months ago. I am also happy to admit that I was utterly shocked at the result. Lesson one from the vote is that I realise that living in my bubble, surrounded by intelligent, rational, open-minded, liberal people is not representative of the entire population of the country. It is not even representative of the majority.
That realisation was a massive wake-up call. Any pride that I had in being British was washed away as I realised that the majority – at least according to the referrendum result – are not the intelligent, rational, open-minded, liberal people I thought and hoped they were. They are, in fact, people who believe what a man like Nigel Farrage says. So sad.
Anyway, now the deed is done and we are destined to see this through. We will be leaving the EU and dealing with the consequences of that. Well, those who choose to stay will be dealing with the consequences of that.
And this week, I had a little insight into what that means.
No more free trade
I have recently been in touch with a bag company called Crafted Goods. I met the Chief Designer at a trade show. I was immediately struck by the aesthetics and quality of the bags on show. More on the products in a post I am working on now.
One of the interesting things about Crafted Goods is that they are based in Colombia and Switzerland. The manufacturing takes place in South America. The CEO there offered to send me one of their bags to try and said that it would be shipped from Bogota.
Now, we live in a small world these days. DHL will collect a parcel (containing a bag) and ship it in a matter of a few days, 8,500km to London. Amazing.
However the package didn’t arrive when I was told it would. There was an unexpected delay. After a frustrating wait, the reason was revealed. The parcel had been stopped by UK customs. Before it would be delivered, I had to pay import duties on it.
I made the payment – which was a bit frustrating to be honest, but I had no choice – and the parcel eventually arrived. It had been opened by customs and (badly) resealed with HM Customs tape.
So here is the deal. If you want to send a parcel – say a birthday present – to a friend who lives in France or Spain or Germany, in a post-Brexit world you will have to declare the value and, if the customs people in whichever country you are sending it to, decide it has a value, your friend will pay the duty for it. Annoying, right?
Now imagine if you have a business that exports to the EU. Currently you pay … nothing. In the post-Brexit future, you will pay the duties that the EU decides you will pay. As a country, we export about £250bn of goods and services to the EU. Let’s write that again – £250,000,000,000 of goods and services are purchased by countries in the EU from businesses in the UK. Businesses that employ people and pay taxes. And who will be very unlikely to be able to afford to trade in that way once tarrifs are applied. After all, if you are going to buy a product or service, why would you choose the one that is 10% or 15% more expensive because of import duties.
So what will happen? Well, businesses that rely on selling to the EU, will move to the free trade area that will exist without the UK (and employ Europeans and pay taxes in Europe) and those that can’t will have to hope that the 60m people in the UK buy as much of whatever they make or do, as the 742.5m who live in the EU. Fat chance of that, by the way.
Probably most of the people who were too stupid to see this coming, don’t care. But the tarrifs on imports and exports are only part of this story.
A couple of weeks ago, my colleagues and I were able to travel to Chamonix in France for the UTMB. We had a great week there. Then one went off to Greece for a friends wedding. Another went back to the UK via Switzerland. Another drove back to the UK through France and I headed to Germany on a train via France and Switzerland.
All that could very well stop. EU countries will probably start to demand that UK citizens apply for visas to travel in Europe. No more impromptu city breaks. No more travelling to the Costa Brava if you have a criminal record (no matter how old). No more popping over to France for a bit of shopping.
Again, I guess that the tiny-minded Little Britain fuck-wits won’t care. But I do.
It was only a bag from Bogota. But this one incident has really highlighted for me, the huge potential damage that the Brexit vote will cause in this country. And I have to say that I am tempted to not stick around for the consequences.