For nearly nine months we’ve been living quietly with the consequences of Brexit.
Most of the time they’ve been a low hum in the background – since Covid has wreaked most of the havoc on the nation.
But every now and then there are weeks when Brexit issues surge back to the foreground, and this has been one of them.
Northern Ireland’s stability is in fresh peril, with the DUP threatening to pull out of power-sharing in Stormont.
A third mobile phone firm has brought back roaming charges for British holidaymakers in the EU.
And while Brexit isn’t the only cause, we’re continuing to see food shortages due to problems in the supply chain. Yesterday an industry chief warned those shortages will never end.
Meanwhile the UK is delaying checks on goods under Boris Johnson ’s Brexit deal yet again, to avoid more problems.
Of course, many of the problems that were originally predicted from the Brexit vote have not come to pass.
But that doesn’t mean it’s been plain sailing. Here’s an updated list of 10 real-life consequences of the vote to leave so far…
Northern Ireland stability is threatened
The DUP has threatened to withdraw from Northern Ireland’s power-sharing in protest at the chaotic fallout of Brexit .
Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson admitted the move could plunge the region into fresh turmoil – but said he had no alternative.
Under the Brexit deal, there are checks on many goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain – despite both being in the UK.
That is because Northern Ireland gets to benefit from many EU rules due to its close ties with the EU-member Republic.
But that essentially means a border down the Irish Sea – something the PM said would never happen.
It led to threats against port staff and days of violence in Belfast. In April DUP First Minister Arlene Foster – who had supported Brexit – announced she would resign.
On Thursday Sir Jeffrey said DUP ministers will “seek to block additional checks at the ports” – even if the UK or EU order them.
He declared the unionist party will no longer take part in ‘strand two’ of north-south co-operation under the Good Friday Agreement.
While he stopped short of pulling out of power-sharing at the Northern Ireland Assembly, he threatened to do so at a later date.
Sir Jeffrey said: “Let me be clear: if the choice is ultimately between remaining in office or implementing the protocol in its present form, then the only option for any unionist Minister would be to cease to hold such office.”
Roaming charges are returning
Roaming charges for UK travellers to the EU were only banned thanks to EU rules. Brexit has revoked that ban.
Before Brexit, Tory ministers assured the nation that the vast majority of phone firms had “no plans” to bring roaming charges back.
But now Vodafone, EE and this week Three have all announced they will reintroduce the fees for UK customers traveling in Europe.
New and upgrading pay monthly and Sim-only customers on Three will be charged £2 per day to use their monthly allowance from May 23, 2022.
This new charge will apply to 48 European destinations.
Three is also getting rid of its free ‘Go Roam’ service outside of Europe, with plans to start charging customers £5 per day for this service in 22 countries.
All pay-monthly or Sim-only customers who sign up to a new Three contract or renew their existing contract from October 1 onwards will be affected.
Supermarkets and restaurants have suffered food shortages
SIPA USA/PA Images)
So, this one can’t be blamed only on Brexit. Covid is a huge factor, leading to disruption and a permanent shift in the labour market.
But visa rules have also made it far more difficult for UK firms to hire lorry drivers – classed as ‘unskilled’ – from the EU.
And of course, drivers who remain are held up by customs and other checks when crossing the Channel.
The UK has has already delayed its checks on imports from the EU to avoid disruption, and they’re currently due to phase in on October 1 and January 1.
But ministers are expected next week to delay the UK’s checks for a second time.
After Nando’s ran out of chicken, British Poultry Council chief Richard Griffiths said: “The situation we’re seeing I think is a result of the Brexit issues.”
And yesterday Ian Wright, chief of the Food and Drink Federation, said: “The UK shopper could have previously expected just about every product they want to be on shelf or in the restaurant all the time.
“That’s over and I don’t think it’s coming back.”
The sausage wars
The UK and Brussels are still deadlocked over EU laws that would stop British sausages being moved to Northern Ireland.
Boris Johnson threatened to break his own Brexit agreement if the ban on chilled meats – which he signed up to as part of the deal – had taken effect on June 30.
In the end it was extended with hours to spare by another three months.
This week it was extended again – this time indefinitely – as a solution still wasn’t found.
The Brexit deal essentially puts Northern Ireland under some EU customs, single market and “product of animal origin rules”.
This is a compromise to avoid there being checks along its border with the Republic – a so-called “hard border”.
But under the animal products rules, British “chilled meat preparations” are banned from export to the EU entirely.
That means chilled sausages, chilled mince and certain ready meals that contain these products.
EU citizens have to jump through legal hoops
Boris Johnson claimed in 2016 that EU citizens would “automatically” be given indefinite leave to remain in the UK after Brexit. In 2017 he told them: “You are loved, you are welcome, your rights will be protected whatever happens”.
But since June 30, EU citizens no longer have a legal right to live and work in the UK unless they’ve been granted “settled status”.
Despite the application system being free and open for more than two years, a surge of around 50,000 applications came at the last minute on June 30 itself.
Any late applicants could be rejected if they do not show “reasonable grounds” for having failed the June 30 deadline.
Officials insisted a flexible approach would be taken to late applications, and those who submit an application will not lose any rights until it had been considered.
But campaigners feared hard-to-reach EU citizens could end up losing their rights to live, work, access the NHS or claim benefits in the UK. Those who missed the deadline and are identified by Immigration Enforcement will be receiving 28-day ultimatums to file a late application – or lose their rights.
Meanwhile, since July EU citizens with pre-settled or settled status can no longer been able to rely on their passport or ID card for proof they can live and work in the UK.
Instead they must log in to view their status online and generate a “share code” to show landlords or employers – who face hefty fines for hiring someone without the right status.
The economy will be smaller
Many of the most extreme predictions before Brexit happened have not come true. House prices did not collapse, to name just one.
However, that doesn’t mean there’s been no impact at all.
The Office for Budget Responsibility said in March that it expected GDP to fall by 0.5% in the first three months of this year due to short-term trade disruption.
And it stuck by its prediction that Brexit will lead to a long-term loss of productivity of about 4%, realised over 15 years.
It suggested around two-fifths of the 4% impact “has effectively already occurred, as a result of uncertainty since the
referendum weighing on investment and capital deepening.”
So you might not see an instant impact in the supermarket – but this suggests the economy is smaller than it otherwise would have been. A further update should come in the October Budget.
Trade with the EU plummeted in January
The UK’s trade with the EU – its largest trading partner by far – collapsed in January as Covid restrictions and Brexit hit hard.
Exports to the EU fell by 41% in January, compared with a 2% rise to non-EU countries.
Imports from the EU fell by 29% in January, compared with only a 13% fall from non-EU countries.
Covid was also a factor – and experts do suggest firms stockpiled EU goods in the Autumn so a short-term fall in trade was inevitable. But the Road Haulage Association said at least half of trucks that came from Europe to the UK were being sent back again empty in January, many due to the complexities of paperwork.
Since then, things have largely recovered, with the Brexit deal ensuring trade is tariff-free. Imports from the EU hit £19.1bn in July while exports to the EU were at £13.4bn. But the UK has not yet imposed its import checks on goods from the EU.
Fishing communities were left in chaos
BAM Perspectives / SWNS)
Fishermen who export to the EU were battered by red tape since new rules took force on January 1.
Fish and meat are more complex than other exports because they need to meet rules on “products of animal origin”. Exporters must fill out an Export Health Certificate and have their goods checked at an EU Border Control Post.
The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations said the first consignments to Calais hit a “brick wall of bureaucracy”.
The government opened a £23m compensation fund for those hit, worth up to £100,000 per fisherman. But it was criticised by a committee of MPs for refusing compensation to fishing firms that incurred costs preparing to trade with the EU.
MPs were more in favour of a second Seafood Response Fund which was only launched later.
Many shellfish exports to the EU are still banned completely
As if this wasn’t bad enough, some shellfish exports have been banned completely since January 1 after a legal dispute between the UK and EU.
Ministers admitted there is a total ban on certain types of mollusc from ‘Class B’ waters around the UK being sent to the EU.
And after the UK initially claimed it would only last until April, the EU clarified the ban was in fact being made permanent.
Waters around Wales and South West England are affected, with exports of mussels, oysters, clams and cockles all hit.
James Green of the Whitstable Oyster Company – whose Kent seaside town holds an annual oyster festival – told MPs: “This put ourselves and others in the industry in a highly perilous situation.
“The town’s fortunes are built and always have been upon the availability of local oysters.”
Mr Eustice insisted the EU had promised no such ban would apply in September 2019 – only to then impose it after Brexit took force.
Minister Victoria Prentis said in July she was “angry” at the change, adding: “I take that up with [the EU] at every opportunity and will continue to do so.”
Online shopping from the EU got more expensive
There was an initial flood of Brits ordering goods online from the EU – only to find they were more expensive.
One woman told the BBC her £150 pair of boots from France came with £78 of taxes and duties on top.
Another spent £600 on two handbags – only to be charged an extra £123 on arrival.
The extra costs are because of changes to VAT rules due to Brexit. Goods costing more than £135 now have the VAT applied when they reach the UK, and to some that extra bill has come as a surprise.
It isn’t just purchases that come with a surprise price tag – gifts from EU friends and family now have that burden too.
One woman told the BBC she had to pay £30 in taxes on a pair of earrings gifted to her by a friend in Greece.
Under post-Brexit rules you pay VAT on gifts worth more than £39 on arrival in the UK.