My thoughts after a recent visit...
We are fast reaching a stage where Brexit either falls down or becomes a cliff edge reality. Having recently spent time in France, talking with English and French friends, it is clear that the uncertainty is causing significant stresses. I was minded to go back to something that I wrote a 18 months ago; a series of speculative thoughts that were a sort of prediction. I am worried that many have already started to come to pass; not Project Fear, as much as realistic and reflective.
A Little Bit of Futurology
Politicians, especially those closely associated with Brexit, will take the easy option and resign to go into relative obscurity, but may then join private enterprise companies as directors.
Pay will continue to stagnate, especially in the public services, which will further diminish what is available.
As the current workforce ages, “controlled immigration”, as an outcome of Brexit, will not fill gaps, so manufacture and house building, hospitality, nursing, teaching and social care, supermarkets among many others, will start to retrench, as they cannot find personnel.
House prices, unless they are artificially kept high by Government intervention (see recent schemes) will start to fall. Lowering house prices will cause disquiet among home owners, but anguish among younger purchasers, as the pay-mortgage differential begins to squeeze tighter- I remember the impact of 15% interest rates on a relatively small mortgage. Lowering house prices will not necessarily help younger people get onto the housing ladder, as pay may still not be sufficient.
"Ex-pats" will return to the UK in numbers. The value of their houses in Spain or France probably will not purchase a house in the UK. Older and possibly with illness, they will need housing and nursing care, creating a new burden on the budgets.
Speculators, hedge funds and larger landlords, however, may well have a field-day, buying up repossessed properties. What proportion of MPs are private landlords? Profumo?
The “bank of mum and dad” will come more into play, supporting children through this period, but for revenue need rather than house purchase.
This bank will also be called upon to pay for any necessary personal care, especially if you have saved over a certain amount.
And then what? In 30 years’ time, when my contemporaries, like me, will hope to be approaching 100 (that’s frightening when written down) a smaller working population, potentially made poorer by decisions in 2016-17, will not be in any position to sustain spending, even as it is now. When you’ve sold the family silver, and anything else of any worth, there’s not much room for manoeuvre, and poorer people/countries can’t borrow.
The “people have spoken”, will be used by some politicians to mean that they can do anything they wish; it will be “our fault” not theirs; they are only doing what “we” asked.
FWIW My view from the garden in France
We are writing to you, as constituents, to seek some guarantees that the original promises made by Brexit supporters will be realised; effectively that we would have the same unrestricted opportunities as we have enjoyed as full members of the EU.
This leads to a number of questions, for which we would hope you are able to provide answers.
As owners of a holiday home in France, we want to know whether we will still be able to enjoy the ease of access that has hitherto been the case. We have friends and family who have chosen to retire in France and Spain, who may require support at short notice.
· will visas be needed and will they be country specific or Europe wide?
· will our driving licences still be valid, and will car insurance and breakdown cover be maintained on the same terms?
· will any support for health care be available as per the current EHIC arrangements?
· will we need to take out additional personal and health insurance?
· will credit and debit cards function as now?
· we have been able to take house insurance through a UK provider; will this continue?
· will there be restrictions on items that can be taken into or brought back from the EU?
· will we be able to use our UK mobile phones, benefitting from current roaming freedoms?
Concerning our family members and friends living in the EU.
· can they remain resident in their own properties?
· will their pensions still be paid direct into EU banks?
· will their pensions continue to be index linked?
· exchange rate change has already devalued pensions (and travel funds) by around 20%.
· will they continue to receive reciprocal health arrangements?
We have a further concern that our son in law, a Spanish citizen, living and working in the UK for five years, will be guaranteed the right to remain indefinitely and be entitled to health and social benefits. If not, will our daughter have the right to emigrate and reside in Spain?
On the wider implications of Brexit,
· can you guarantee continuous supply of food, medicines, fuel and ease of transport?
· many industries rely on a source of available labour. Can you guarantee that restrictions on labour movement will not impact on provision across many areas, eg NHS, social care, hospitality, agriculture and fishing, construction, academia, heritage industry (museums and galleries)?
· an ageing population, described as baby boomers, coupled with a falling birth rate, will exacerbate any workforce shortage.
· Mark Carney suggested that house values could fall, by up to 30%. As parents of children just embarked on the housing ladder, such a fall could wipe out their personal capital and potentially put them into negative equity. Will the Government seek to safeguard personal security?
Many deprived areas have benefitted from EU funding in different forms. Farming has benefited from CAP funding, which has supported the maintenance of a proportion of food production and the environment. Can you guarantee that such funding will continue?
Our food production has fallen to approximately 40% of need, meaning that we are reliant on imports for a greater proportion. The suggestion that we will need to stockpile food in the event of a no-deal Brexit has echoes of war-related rationing, of which I have a memory, which, in peacetime, would seem to be a dereliction of duty by the Government.
Having listened to and read the arguments over the past 30 months, our concerns about the impact of Brexit have not been assuaged in any way; in fact, the worries have grown. Lives will be impacted significantly, for an indeterminate period.
The whole of our adult lives has coincided with EU membership.
We have seen significant improvements across a wide swathe of experiences, enhancing our lives and giving opportunities not available to earlier generations, not least the ease of travel and access to EU countries. We would wish our grandchildren to enjoy the same benefits, as well as to enjoy the peace that has derived from the cooperative venture that emerged from the second world war.
We look forward to a full response.
We just don't know...