A Brexit Christmas?

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL September 4, 2021

I know it’s a bit early to be thinking about Christmas, but it’s hard not to with all the caterwauling about likely shortages come December.

One wine company, which just happens to be the world’s fifth biggest, has already warned there may be less of the good stuff, or that it might be very pricey because of truck driver shortages in the UK.

Firms such as Wetherspoons and McDonald’s are affected by similar shortages. Some McDonald’s are apparently running low on bacon, milkshakes and bread. Supermarkets have empty shelves.

British doctors’ surgeries will soon be affected as well because of news that supplies such as flu shots can’t be delivered on schedule on account of the lack of truckers.

This is not just a British problem. The post-Covid recovery is exposing snarls in the global supply chain. These are spurred by labour shortages, which means companies are struggling to meet demand even as shipping bottlenecks cause further headaches. There is a shortfall in semiconductors, the price of coffee is rising, as are food prices.

Brexit has added its own particular flavour to the cocktail of problems. There are other reasons too, as the excellent Sarah O’Connor has described (paywall) in the Financial Times. In a nutshell, she said the UK shortages are about more than Brexit. Factors that contribute to the shortage of truck drivers is that they have been slipping down the wage ladder for years, despite the long, unpredictable hours and the fact that they pay (something like £1,500) for their own qualifications.

“The empty shelves are a visible message from a workforce that’s usually invisible,” she wrote. “The story of Britain’s empty shelves, like that of its unpicked strawberries and unprocessed chickens, is the story of how migration combined with a weakly regulated labour market and hugely powerful retailers have allowed some goods and services to become unsustainably cheap. The system shaved money off our shopping bills but it wasn’t resilient. Remain voters are right to say Brexit helped to cause the current crisis, but wrong to say everything was fine without it. Brexit voters are right to say migration helped suppress driver pay, but as the Netherlands shows, Brexit wasn’t the only way to resolve it. The labour shortages are a moment of reckoning.”

Whatever happens or doesn’t, with the shortages of drivers and products, how does one deal with Christmas?

I thought it might be an excellent (and politically savvy) idea to embrace the shortages as a form of Brexit resilience.

How about if gifts were made locally and bought only from small outfits within a five mile radius?

How about cooking local, British chickens and turkeys?

Just saying.