List of problems facing this country is endless
- Credit: Chris Bishop
Fuel shortages. Empty shelves in supermarkets. Cancer patients having their chemotherapy cancelled. Hundreds of thousands of pigs facing a cull due to a shortage of abattoir staff. The list of problems facing our country gets ever longer.
For enthusiastic Remainers the answer is simple – it’s all down to Brexit.
For Brexit partisans it’s equally simple – it’s all down to Covid.
Most reasonable people can see it’s a bit more complicated than that and both have played their part.
Take the HGV driver shortage: Covid led to many EU nationals leaving Britain. Self-isolation cut the numbers of drivers available and led to a huge testing backlog.
But Brexit has made EU nationals unable or unwilling to come back and fill vacancies. Extra red tape at the border means more drivers are required to keep supplies at the same level.
However there are other fundamental factors in play that are making a bad situation worse.
A decade or more of underinvestment means that Covid and Brexit have hit services that were already on the brink of crisis.
There was already a shortage of HGV drivers. Poor pay and terrible working conditions do not make this an attractive occupation. On the continent there has been investment in an extensive network of free and clean service areas.
In Britain we expect drivers to urinate in bottles, wash with wet wipes and to sleep by the side of noisy roads in poorly insulated cabs.
There are still no plans to tackle this.
Another problem is the inability of the Boris Johnson’s Government to handle emergencies.
During the last Labour Government, events like the fuel protests and foot and mouth led to a huge amount of effort envisioning possible emergencies and putting contingencies in place.
That work seems to have been left to wither under the last 10 years of Conservative government. Ministers now appear like rabbits caught in the headlights by each new problem that could and should have been planned for.
This comes from the top. Boris Johnson defaults to blind optimism. He’s temperamentally incapable of planning for bad things to happen.
It’s the reason his government, when forced to take urgent action, seems constantly to move too slowly and take what are ultimately bad decisions, making a bad situation worse.