Brexit effect: Shortage of airport staff is just the tip of an iceberg set to hit UK economy – Scotsman comment

The economic damage being caused to the UK by Brexit has largely been obscured by the all-encompassing effects of the Covid pandemic.

Leave Means Leave campaign group supporters celebrate as the United Kingdom exits the European Union on January 31, 2020 (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Leave Means Leave campaign group supporters celebrate as the United Kingdom exits the European Union on January 31, 2020 (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

However, there are times when it is possible to see through the turmoil and appreciate the cost of leaving the European Union.

Amid mass flight cancellations, long queues and delays at airports – largely attributed to a shortage of staff – the aviation industry made a plea to the UK Government to allow them to recruit more workers from overseas. It has reportedly been rejected.

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Had the UK still been in the European Union, there would have been no need to ask for special permission. Companies could have simply recruited the necessary staff.

But, as Steve Heapy, chief executive of holiday firm Jet2, told the BBC, “Brexit has taken hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people out of the employment market and that undoubtedly is having an impact.”

Transport is far from the only sector crying out for staff.

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Last month, for the first time since records began, labour market figures revealed there were more vacancies, 1.3 million, than unemployed people.

In an article for the Conversation website, experts Professor Donald Houston and Professor Paul Sissons warned: “Places across the UK where job vacancies are concentrated are likely to experience sharp economic contractions if they are unable to attract more workers soon.”

There are now about 100,000 fewer EU citizens working in the UK than at the start of the pandemic, they noted, while adding this had been “more than offset by continued long-term growth in the number of non-EU foreign-born workers in the UK”, with 170,000 more since March 2020.

The myth that cutting off the supply of EU workers would necessarily mean higher wages for UK-born people convinced many to vote for Brexit.

However, the inability to fill jobs that could have otherwise gone to EU nationals is about to cause not just disruption to our holiday plans, but serious problems for the economy.

And, with fears of a “stagflation” recession amid soaring global energy prices, the UK will need all the help it can get. There may be no going back to the EU anytime soon, but Brexiteer ideology, which may well be behind the UK Government’s refusal to help the aviation industry, should be ditched forthwith.

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