Government, Brexit, DUP, & The Fall Of High Street

The UK News Roundup 09/11/2018


DUP Throws Shade At May Over Irish Border

The DUP (The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party) has presented an added complication to the issue over the Irish border after Brexit. Northern Ireland currently has no customs restrictions into the Republic of Ireland, but this is being threatened by a no deal Brexit. This “hard border” would be highly unpopular on all sides, but may be inevitable if no deal can be reached with the European Union’s various governments.

The DUP would find it unacceptable. This wouldn’t be a big deal except for the fact that Theresa May’s government relies on DUP support for winning key votes in Parliament because the Conservatives don’t have a majority. The DUP feel betrayed by the Prime Minister and could punish her for not sufficiently taking into account the will of the Northern Irish people.

May’s government have proposed a “backstop” to mitigate the risks here – an insurance measure that would keep the border between Northern and Republic of Ireland open until a proper EU agreement can be reached. Yet the DUP also do not want to remain in a de-facto EU market customs union for a further two to three years.


Tory Brexiteers Are Never Happy

The row over the “backstop” is but a small part of the fundamental difference in worldview amongst MPs in the Conservative Party. The so-called Tory rebels, hardcore Brexiteers, may still vote down a Brexit deal, even with the planned backstop end date (the proposed date on which the customs agreements truly expire). This comes from former Minister Steve Baker, a leader in the backbench European Research Group (ERG), who said:

“In the end, it’s not really about the backstop … The tearing frustration is that the UK has been negotiating with itself.”

Frankly, it’s going to be a miracle if the government, the Conservative Party, and the UK come out of all this in one piece.


The High Street Is Dying By The Second

The story of the modern is one of shifting structures and those desperately trying to cling to the old ones.

A new report has made the shocking discovery that an average of 14 high street shops are closing every day. Major retailers such as John Lewis are struggling, with slumping profits. Independent stores and large retail chains alike are feeling the pinch of “Brexit blues” and a shifting economy.

The government has responded by pledging business tax cuts of up to £1 billion. Whether this will reverse the decline, or slow an inevitable decline, is unclear, at least according to PwC:

“Openings simply aren’t replacing the closures at a fast enough rate. Specifically, the openings across ‘experiential’ chains, such as ice cream parlors, beauty salons, and vape shops, haven’t been enough to offset closures in the more traditional categories.”

Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey sees it not as inevitable but a disaster that must be stopped:

“We need to stop the onslaught of store closures and job losses on the high street, but the Tories’ plan will merely tinker at the edges.”

The fact that we live in the 21st Century where online retailers and the gig economy has fundamentally altered the structure of the economy is lost on her.


Government Retaliates Against Gig Economy

One of the biggest changes in the economy over the past decade is the working habits of young people – young workers are preferring freedom over stability, flexibility over remuneration. This represents stiff competition on behalf of labor unions that are mostly made up of older generations. Theresa May has responded by announcing a swathe of “worker protections” for those that work in the gig economy.

This includes legislation to force companies to pay their freelance staff the same as a full-time wage, paid holiday in certain situations, and the right for gig workers to request fixed-term contracts. The fact that everyone who has ever worked for Deliveroo or Uber was doing so voluntarily is also lost on the government.

You can read more from James Smith on Think Liberty here.


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