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Wera Hobhouse: Breaking the Political Taboo of Discussing Brexit

wera hobhouse brexit

Wera Hobhouse

MP for Bath

Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath writes that an inquiry must be held into the impacts of Brexit.

Discussing Brexit has become a bit of a political taboo. It is a taboo that we must break. We need a true picture of Brexit’s impact on people, business and the whole economy. We need cold, hard evidence. There is now a large amount of data on the impact of Brexit on our economy, however it needs to be put out into the open. That is why we must have an inquiry into the impact of Brexit.

We are the only G7 nation with an economy smaller than it was before the pandemic. The OBR has said that leaving the EU will reduce the UK’s long-term GDP by about 4%. It also assumes that UK imports and exports will both be 15% lower in the long run than had we remained in the EU. The cause stems in part from the entanglement of red tape businesses face when trying to trade abroad. Something that needs to be discussed and addressed. 

Our public services have also seen difficulties stemming from our current relationship with Europe. Vital workers in vital professions are leaving. The Nuffield Trust has argued that EU-trained medics now face extra bureaucracy and higher costs. If pre-Brexit recruitment patterns had continued, the NHS would have 165 more psychiatrists, 288 more paediatricians and 394 more anaesthetists. Each vacancy is hurting communities, as NHS patients face painful delays and waiting lists. In my constituency of Bath, only one in three adults has been able to secure an appointment with an NHS dentist, and yet the Government refuses to recognise EU dentists’ qualifications.

Our cultural links with the EU have also taken a hit. Visa and work-permit rules often vary between EU member states. Musicians are now forced to spend much of their time and money figuring out how to meet different standards for different EU countries. It is a real setback for artists who want to perform, not spend their time battling bureaucracy.

Cabotage rules restrict UK hauliers over 3.5 tonnes from going to more than three different EU countries. The Association of British Orchestras says that those rules are increasing tour costs by up to £16,000 per day for orchestras using their own vehicles. That seriously restricts the viability of touring.

Another consequence is more complicated customs rules. The Passport for Goods required to move unaccompanied instruments from the UK to the EU costs up to £310 plus VAT, plus a deposit of 30% to 40% of the value of the items. The goods passports are also time-consuming to prepare and can cause customs delays.

Such barriers limit our cultural reach and stunt our £5.8 billion music industry. An Encore Musicians survey shows that 76% of musicians agree that it is likely that Brexit travel restrictions will stop them performing in Europe. We must establish exactly what difficulties our arts sector is facing.

An inquiry would not be intended to go over old ground from the years of Brexit debates; it should focus on the here and now, without prejudice. The Government wants to ignore the difficulties created by Brexit and concentrate on what they class as our Brexit freedoms, but let us compare what was promised and what has not been delivered. Covering up problems will not make them disappear. We need an inquiry to establish the truth about our exit from the EU. If we are going to solve the issues, we first have to acknowledge that they exist.

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