Missing McDonald's milkshakes and other post Brexit realities
Sections of the 'Get Brexit Done' media are finally having to face up to the facts around supply chain shortages and a lack of migrant workers, says Raymond Snoddy
They may only be the first falling leaves of a difficult autumn to come, but parts of the Brexit-supporting media are starting to show signs of responding to current post- Brexit realities.
Gone are the uncritical promotions of the “sunny uplands” and of the politicians who could not see a single disadvantage in leaving the European Union. Instead, the national newspapers who so enthusiastically campaigned for Getting Brexit Done, now have to face up to “supply chain” difficulties that are leaving gaps in supermarket shelves and the global notoriety of the disappearing McDonald's milkshakes.
There are a number of notable approaches by the pro-Brexit press - one is to blame the EU for the increasing scale of the mess we are in. Another is to claim that there is nothing wrong with Brexit, it’s just the way it has been done, even though papers like the Daily Mail were just interested in getting it done, anything done, at the time.
The Daily Express has still got a nose in the sunny uplands and is perfectly happy to laud “the incredible global trade options” being opened up by international trade secretary, Liz Truss, such as joining the £9trillion Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) by December 2022.
But just occasionally there is a chink of daylight - an acknowledgement that things aren’t quite right.
There was a remarkable comment article in the latest issue of the Mail on Sunday which accepted how bad things now are, warned that they are about to get worse from the beginning of October, before arguing for its own remarkable, emollient solution.
“Let’s unite with the EU to crush the curse of border bureaucracy,” the perfectly sensible comment argued.
The piece came on the back of an article by former Conservative MP and chairman of M&S, Archie Norman who revealed that every M&S lorry bound for the EU had to be accompanied by 700 pages of documentation.
Only 80% of M&S goods were getting through to Ireland and even less to France and amid a driver shortage, 30% more driver hours were needed.
The way forward, according to Norman in the MoS was to move to an acceptance of an equivalence of health and quality standards and express it electronically rather in enough pages to fill three paperbacks.
The Mail on Sunday, which surprisingly argued for Remain in the referendum campaign under a previous editor, before reverting to type, then went on to argue for something dangerously close to the creation of a customs union or single market.
Rigid borders would damage everyone and the country’s goodwill and desire to trade profitably with its friends and neighbours was not in doubt.
“We are sure that most people and leaders in the EU feel the same. Let us act together for this good aim,” the newspaper argued.
Perhaps over-egging the pudding a little, Labour Peer Lord Adonis saw this as evidence for the emergence of a pro-EU tendency in the Conservative Party.
The Sun, which was ecstatic on its Independence Day has had to acknowledge that so far the outcome has hardly been ideal as it launched its campaign to recruit thousands more British HGV drivers.
“Britain can fix the delivery crisis, which has left shelves empty, pubs dry and McDonalds - to the dismay of millions - without milkshakes,” said The Sun.
The paper came close to admitting the cause of the shortages but couldn’t bring itself to go the whole way.
“Let us concede that Brexit and a lack of EU drivers IS among various factors responsible,” the Sun argued, suggesting the other factors included Covid and an exodus of veteran truckers.
The paper failed to explain why all the members of the EU, which all have Covid and retiring truckers are not suffering supermarket shortages - but at least it’s a start to mention the B word at all.
This has proved very difficult for the BBC to manage.
The BBC reports that the food shortages are to do with supply chain disruption as if this was an act of God and without, until very recently, mentioning Brexit.
BBC Breakfast was at it again this week, discussing the serious impact of a shortage of seasonal workers on agriculture, without suggesting that Brexit was the primary cause.
At least the BBC is showing some signs of reflecting the impact of Brexit on the UK economy and society.
The Daily Telegraph appears largely unreconstructed.
In an important article on Tuesday, Liam Halligan warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson that soaring flatiron, spiralling public debt and stroppy trade unions have created the perfect storm that looks like a throwback to the 1970s, which culminated in the winter of discontent.
"There are of course geopolitical echoes too", argued Halligan, a prominent Brexit supporter, "as Britain recasts relations with Europe after a historic referendum”.
Unfortunately in a long, detailed and ultimately pessimistic analysis of the UK’s future under “the UK’s post lockdown leadership” in which he has little faith, there was no room for a mention of the B word.
Halligan also omitted to say whether or not he still believed in the sunny uplands to be enjoyed by the UK after leaving the European Union.