British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a press conference in Downing Street, London, UK on Tuesday. DAN KITWOOD / AFP
Populism ends up passing a large bill to the society that surrenders to it: sometimes later, but almost always very early. The material consequences that Brexit is having in the United Kingdom offer a remarkable repertoire of rates. British citizens are witnessing situations that were dismissed as unfounded scaremongering in the 2016 EU exit referendum. They were also scorned by the prime minister since July 2019, the conservative Boris Johnson, throughout the negotiating process with Brussels as mere hypotheses that would never happen. In the span of a few weeks, the British have been assailed by the risk of shortages of some products, a shortage of labor or a refugee crisis in their territory.Johnson's patriotic rhetoric has proven ineffective, as Jonathan Coe guessed, among others, in a splendid novel,
The heart of England
Empty shelves and lack of workers: pandemic and Brexit exacerbate UK supply crisis
The tension with Paris has been triggered by the incessant arrival to the United Kingdom of migrants who cross the Channel from France and that the French Government refuses to readmit. Some members of the Johnson Cabinet, such as Interior Minister Priti Patel, have proposed the use of force to push back the precarious vessels and leave the matter in French hands, at the cost of jeopardizing the untouchable UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, according to which no one can abandon anyone in danger to the sea. None of this would happen if the UK remained in the EU; The Dublin III regulation would apply, according to which migrants can be returned to the first country through which they entered the Union. Ending irregular immigration was a Brexit flag, but no one explained how,and least of all the Brexit champions.
More serious than that conflict is the one generated by the new immigration law of the British Government and the strong restrictions on the hiring of community workers that it imposes. Each harvest season was counted on them, as were the transporters. The result is that even if there is a sufficient quantity of perishable food at source, the means by which it can be distributed are scarce. Some producers are even resorting to hiring second-degree prisoners. Following a short-term strategy, Johnson has unilaterally delayed customs and health controls on food from the EU. With this, he has managed to raise the fury of a sector that seconded his promises in the campaign for Brexit.
Johnson hides behind the crisis created by the covid - a disease that he also despised in its early days - but the truth is that it is actually an excuse: the negative consequences of such a decision were hidden from the British electorate. Today they already know them.