Some time ago, Central Bylines asked, “How is Brexit affecting your business?” I sent in a succinct paragraph or two about the immediate effects of Brexit on my own business and it seemed to hit a nerve with many readers. You can read it here.
Recently I was asked to write a follow up. So pour yourself a single malt, add a drop of water and hunker down.
Deliberate, avoidable, unnecessary
I sell lighting in a retail high street shop. The costs of importing have rocketed. Everything I described previously is still relevant and hasn’t improved. Everything takes longer to arrive and customers are getting weary.
On top of all the red tape and lack of supply, we now have a cost-of-living crisis. The war in Ukraine and the effects of the Covid pandemic are still with us. The whole world has been affected by both of those major catastrophes. However, if you look at all the research and graphs from reliable sources, it is only the UK that has had a massive downturn in its economy. In Europe, they have inflation, some supply issues and energy cost rises, but not one country has had the severe problems that the UK has had.
What could have caused our problems? What is one thing that the UK has that no other country has experienced?
This is, of course, all rhetorical. You know as well as I do that it’s Brexit. The government that gave you Brexit, that lied to you to get Brexit, that is still lying to you by saying that they got it done, is the same government that has inflicted this cost-of-living crisis on us.
It’s all deliberate. It’s all avoidable. It’s all unnecessary.
I have no business
Before this energy crisis, I paid about £150 per month for electricity in the shop. I have six ceiling tracks full of display fittings. My bills went up, so I reduced the number of lights I had on all day to just two tracks. My monthly bill is now around £200. If I still had all six tracks on, it would be £600. That’s a fourfold increase.
Brexit may not be directly to blame for the rise in my fuel bills but that rise has been piled on top of all the increased costs and delays that Brexit definitely is responsible for. I am in a much weaker position now to absorb this fourfold increase than I was five years ago.
Since Brexit, exports from the UK to the EU are down by 40%. The owner of the Cheshire Cheese Company sold his company recently to someone in the EU because, after Brexit, he couldn’t successfully export his product from here. He lost £600,000. There are other, similar stories. Too many to mention.
My bills are going up, and so are everyone else’s. So many are struggling. And those struggling are far less likely to spend their money in shops like mine. This is a graph of my business turnover. You can see how Brexit and recent world events have affected it.
My costs are going up, while my turnover is going down. I have no business.
“That’s where it all happens”
Before the referendum, I was happy being in the EU. I knew what it meant and why it existed.
When I was 12, my parents took me on a summer holiday, a trip across Europe, visiting many major cities over a few weeks. To see so many different cultures in such a short space of time was amazing. My dad would tell stories about every place we visited. He was teaching me, but I didn’t notice. It felt like we were just chatting. France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Belgium – I had been given a history of Europe in the 20th century without knowing it.
We arrived in Brussels, visited the Mannequin Pis and the Atomium, then ended up outside a huge concrete building with a row of national flags outside. It was 1976, so not quite the EU yet.
Dad was born in 1930. He was nine when the war started. He understood what happened and what the leaders did after the war to try and prevent it occurring again. He explained how we were all working together to be one big, happy family. Then he pointed at the concrete building and said, “That’s where it all happens”. He smiled and said we could only visit all these countries easily because we had stopped killing each other.
That’s why the EU is so important. It stops us killing each other.
He instilled a love of travelling in me, which I’ve never lost. If you travel, you don’t see borders, just neighbours and new friends who have wonderful food and incredible beer. I have never forgotten that trip. My dad died in 2005. If he was still here today, he’d be outside parliament screaming at the Tories. As for UKIP – well, his language would be unprintable.
I tried to explain this to those I was close to, before the vote. Some of them listened – but not all.
A flag in the window
I have an EU flag in the window of the shop. It’s been there since 2016. The comments I hear now are changing. More people are saying that Brexit was a mistake.
I’m in a safe Conservative seat. My MP is Neil O’Brien. A nondescript, clone Conservative, with an instantly forgettable face and personality. He doesn’t like me (I can’t imagine why). I’m blocked from all methods of communication.
His constituents will still vote for him, yet many are unhappy with how Brexit has been handled. Most don’t fully understand freedom of movement, the single market, or the customs union. They just know that Brexit has failed and we need to do something to work better with Europe. I guess that’s a start.
I have been talking to people about it since the vote was cast. Recently I’ve noticed that fewer people appear to have voted leave, which is odd.
I met Guy Verhofstadt and Terry Reinke on the recent Rejoin march and they both said that we are welcome back, they want us back, they miss us and there would be no vetoes. We just need to sort out the mess that the Conservatives created.
I know we were lied to. The leavers are beginning to realise it too. We will return. I may not have my shop by the time that happens. I haven’t stopped fighting but the damage has been done.
It’s going to be a tough few years.