Labourers Lost


Many commentators continue to erroneously blame Brexit for shortages

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Remain-leaning outlets continue to try and propound a narrative of mass shortages (including left-leaning US sources, intriguingly), caused by a lack of lorry drivers – which they pin in part on Brexit.

US interest in these stories is curious, but it perhaps reflects the need for commentators to find something negative about Brexit which they can use as a warning to opponents in their own political battles.  The same need to find something to vindicate predictions of doom is more comprehensible in the British press, though it is no less misleading.

As we’ve detailed in previous posts, this narrative is mistaken.  In the case of lorry drivers, shortages of staff are cross-Europe problem, one made worse rather than better by the Single Market.  And contrary to hostile reporting, although there have been isolated supply crunch incidents at certain chains, the general situation is hardly as dangerous as news sites make out.

A relatively balanced piece from Huffington Post mentioned the Remainer argument that the UK would be better placed to address supply problems if it could rapidly bring in more drivers from Eastern Europe.  But this solution is illusory.  Supply chain crunches are happening across Europe – in Denmark, 21% of large companies have stopped taking orders due to labour shortages.

The principal reason, as readers will be aware, is to do with the effects of pandemic, as many staff take time off work due to infection or contact with Covid-19.  Many businesses and workers are also still being propped up by the furlough scheme, which creates friction in the labour market by allowing excess workers not to change jobs, as the cost of their employment is borne by the state.

This ignorance of the broader European situation should shame Remain-leaning outlets, whose journalists and readers pride themselves on their supposedly internationalist outlook.  It also shows beyond doubt that journalistic platitudes about poverty and working conditions dissolve when the same people are faced with paying the difference between British and foreign labour, whether in the wages of their cleaners or the prices of their Deliveroo meals.

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