Free movement of people, goods, services and capital. These are the main principles of the EU and the basis of the Single Market. So what happens after Brexit? With mutterings of a hard Brexit still around, the Conservatives look to be painting a picture of a future where the UK unilaterally raises the drawbridge on the continent.
Britain has arguably benefited from the seamless movement of traffic between Europe and the UK, bringing all manner of goods and services to our shores. So what happens when that option is removed?
In 2000, British hauliers protested at the rising tax on fuel that they argued was removing their competitive edge, blockading oil terminals to prevent fuel from being transported across the UK. Their protest led to a crisis in the NHS, the panic buying of food and forecourts closing for lack of fuel. It was also the only time that Labour sank below the Conservatives in the polls between 1997 and 2006.
Extrapolate this example; miles of queues of lorries at the Channel on both the continent and in the UK as a system unused to border controls for the past two decades suddenly has to cope with the huge quantities of imports and exports that cross the Channel monthly, weekly, daily. Businesses lose custom as they fail to deliver on time. Food rots in the back of lorries and drivers lose their tempers. This is not just a UK problem, but one that could impact across the Continent as well.
Research conducted by ComRes for Theos in 2011 shows that a majority of the public (52%) said they would protest on fuel prices, significantly more than those who say they would do the same at the threat of losing their job (33%). With austerity continuing and Brexit looming, what’s to say reactions would be much different today? And what will be the reaction if food starts to run out, stuck at the port of Calais trying to get through customs. Considering the damage in the polls to a first-term Tony Blair, the threat to a Prime Minister presiding over a hung parliament cannot be understated.