Is Brexit breaking Britain?

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts as he delivers a speech during the annual Conservative Party Conference, in Manchester, Britain, October 6, 2021.

When the UK left the EU at the end of last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised that his country would put its new freedom to good use. A more open and dynamic "Global Britain" would still benefit from solid ties with Europe, he pledged, but aligning its foreign and trade policies more closely with democracies in other regions – the United States, India, South Korea, Australia and others — would lift the UK into a new era of security and prosperity.


But critics warned that Brexit, the most dramatic and abrupt large-scale commercial realignment in modern history, would inflict both short-term and lasting damage to Britain's economy. For decades, most of Britain's exports have gone to Europe. People and money moved freely between the UK and EU too. London's importance for Europe made it a global financial capital. You can't give all that up, the critics cautioned, and expect Britain's ship to sail smoothly on.

There was also the question of boundaries. How to draw a new line between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, and Northern Ireland, still part of the UK, without disrupting the hard-won peace that ended an era of Irish violence in 1998? Though Johnson got Brexit done, that problem remains unresolved.

Turn on the news now in Britain, and it appears the critics were right, at least about the short-term pain. A shortage of truck drivers, about 20,000 of them foreigners forced home by COVID and then kept out by post-Brexit visa restrictions, have created product shortages at British supermarkets and petrol stations. Prices have reached their highest point in nearly a decade and are predicted to climb higher.

There are also fears of longer-term pain as many UK industries, like its automakers, face higher costs, more paperwork, and longer wait times for parts they've long imported from Europe. The UK services sector — finance professionals, doctors, lawyers, architects etc. — which accounts for about 80 percent of economic output and jobs, is now newly subject to rules created by European regulators that increase costs and delays.

There are also new fights between the UK and EU over the Irish border question and threats flying between London and Paris over fishing rights and lingering controversies over the long-term status of EU citizens still living in the UK.

Some of the economic damage can surely be blamed on COVID, which killed more people in the UK than in any European country and forced extended lockdowns. But the lack of gasoline and other shortages in Northern Ireland, which still has an open border to the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, suggests Brexit, not COVID, is mainly to blame.

Boris Johnson says he's "not worried" about shortages and rising prices. The PM said this week that "Brexit freedoms" will boost Britain in coming years even if the UK is now struggling through an unfortunate but entirely natural period of economic adjustment. He insists the current problems will prove short-lived, and late last month his government announced an offer of three-month visas for foreign truck drivers to help Britons cope with the Christmas season.

But in the end, the truth about Brexit and its effects may not matter, because the perception that Brexit is sinking Britain's economy and prospects – and that Johnson doesn't understand or doesn't care about the impact – will boost the voices of those in Scotland who want to leave the UK and those in Ireland dreaming of Irish reunification. Latest polls suggest that support for independence in Scotland (48.3 percent) is now higher than during the 2014 independence referendum, when Scotland voted 55-45 percent to remain in the UK. The Irish border question created by Brexit has already triggered violence in Northern Ireland.

The bottom line: Brexit won't break Britain's economy – despite the shortages and anxiety it's now provoking. Producers will adjust to post-Brexit realities, and recovery from COVID will create momentum for new growth. But it might yet break up the UK politically if the current economic disruption and public anger across the country continues long enough for Scottish and Irish secessionists to build momentum for exit plans of their own.

Meet Zoe Marshall, grandmother, fishmonger, and thriving business owner.

https://ad.doubleclick.net/ddm/trackimp/N6024.4218512GZEROMEDIA/B26379324.311531246;dc_trk_aid=504469522;dc_trk_cid=156468981;ord=[timestamp];dc_lat=;dc_rdid=;tag_for_child_directed_treatment=;tfua=;gdpr=${GDPR};gdpr_consent=${GDPR_CONSENT_755};ltd=

When Zoe Marshall decided to switch careers in her forties and become a fishmonger, she was scared. After leaving her job of 23 years, Zoe was forced to pivot in order to keep her family's home. Despite challenges, she forged ahead, opening Sea-Licious. Accepting Visa payments in her fishmonger shop, this access to commerce helps Zoe provide convenience to her customers and confidence in their transactions. Though she's one of the only women in the fish market each morning, her business and its place in the local community are flourishing with Visa's help.

Learn more about Zoe and her story.

Listen: Can Big Government still rein in Big Tech or has it already lost control? Never before have just a few companies exerted such an outsized influence on humanity. Today's digital space, where we live so much of our daily lives, has increasingly become an area that national governments are unable to control. It may be time to start thinking of these corporations as nation-states in their own rights. Ian Bremmer speaks with Nicholas Thompson, CEO of the Atlantic and former WIRED editor-in-chief, about how to police the digital world.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

In the lead-up to this year's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, much of the attention has been focused on last summer's wildfires across the US and Europe, and more recently skyrocketing European energy prices. But what about Asia, the world's biggest and most populated region, which also has the highest share of global carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming? Asia has unique climate risks but also many opportunities for solutions, and whatever happens at COP26, Asian countries led by China and India are primed to lead the world in the struggle to make the planet greener before it's too late. In a live discussion moderated by Shari Friedman, Eurasia Group's Managing Director of Climate and Sustainability, global experts discussed these and other topics during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit sponsored by Suntory.

More Show less

We're just days away from COP26, the landmark global climate conference that's been dubbed the last chance to get the climate crisis in check. In the lead-up to the event in Glasgow, dozens of countries have released new ambitions to reduce their future carbon footprints. For years, climate activists and experts have called on governments to introduce carbon pricing schemes – either through taxes or emissions-trading schemes. So who's heeded the warning? We take a look at the top ten carbon emitters' share of global emissions and details about their respective national carbon pricing schemes.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Do cryptocurrencies make it harder to enforce foreign policy sanctions?

Well, that is exactly what the Biden administration worries about. As part of growing concerns of whether unregulated currencies undermine a whole host of policies, sanctions and foreign or trade policy should be a priority area. And just like others who wish to evade tracing of their wealth or transactions, the very states or their sanctioned entities should be assumed to resort to all options to evade restrictions while continuing to do business. So having cryptocurrencies undermining the ability to enforce strategic goals logically raises eyebrows in Washington.

More Show less

Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

More Show less

For Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and now CEO of the Asia Society, the science on climate change is pretty much done, so the only unresolved issues are tech and — more importantly — lack of political leadership. He can't think of a single national political leader who can fill the role, and says the only way to get political action on climate is to mobilize public opinion.

Rudd joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here and register here to watch part two Friday 10/22 at 8 am ET.

Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal