Flags of UK and EU divided by Brexit

Brexit - the great divider

Linda McAvan, MEP

Linda Mcavan stepped down as Member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire and The Humber on 18 April 2019. This was a post she had served with distinction for 21 years. She decided not to stand for re-election in the expected European Parliament elections which were due on 18 April 2019; a decision no doubt affected by the fact that by January 31, 2020 the United Kingdom was due to withdraw from the European Union.

Other Brexit effects

Britain's exit from the EU has had profound effects on many aspects of life in the United Kingdom, which have been compounded by the Covid 19 epidemic. In particular a trade deal was agreed between British and EU negotiators at virtually the last minute in December 2020 but many aspects remain unresolved. In particular the situation regarding the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic is still causing friction and no agreement was made regarding a free-trade in financial services.

Effect of Brexit on financial services

So-called passporting rights for the British financial industry were lost on 1 January 2021. It has been no secret that Brussels wished to make more use of its own financial services sector and indeed some 12,000 jobs have been reputed to have been lost from the city of London as staff have been moved to Amsterdam; this city has now taken the lion's share of EU financial business from London. British negotiators are currently refusing to accept further regulation from Europe, whilst the latter is wary of a reduction in regulation in London resulting in an unlevel playing field.

Effect of Brexit on car insurance

Whilst Britain was a member of the EU UK motorists were free to drive through the countries of the European Union using their own driving licences and also their own car insurance certificates. The so called 'green card' of the past was redundant since all European countries had agreed common standards on insurance. This situation came to an end when Britain finally left the EU completely at the end of the transition period. Once again a green card is necessary for European travel.

This is a confirmation issued by your insurance company that you have adequate insurance cover of at least the minimum required in the countries through which you will be travelling. This has to be carried as well as the original insurance documents and your passport.

Most major car insurance companies (such as this budget car insurer) will provide cover for driving abroad but some of the smaller ones have had issues with this because of the change in insurance passporting rights. The Covid epidemic has reduced foreign travel by car dramatically; hence the rise in insuring cars short term; but once the epidemic has subsided sufficiently many motorists may find that the cost of insuring their cars to travel in the EU may rise considerably.

Effect of Brexit on food supplies

Traditionally many jobs in Britain were carried out by people who came over from Europe, often for temporary employment for work such as picking crops on farms, or as delivery drivers. They not only took up unskilled jobs though; a large number worked in abattoirs, the building industry and heavy haulage. Many of these workers who intended to settle in Britain felt unwelcome and moved back to their countries of origin and those who came for short term work are no longer allowed to work here. The result has been a shortage of food in many shops as a result of insufficient labour being available to prepare it, or distribute it.

Government policy is that these jobs should be carried out by our existing UK labour force, but how long it will take to train them is a question still not answered, and whether or not there will be enough youngsters in the country willing to become fruit pickers or takeaway food delivery drivers is debateable.

In the meanwhile both exports and imports of food to and from Europe have been adversely affected, at least initially, by the additional paperwork that Brexit has made necessary.

Linda Mcavan's early career

Linda McCavan was brought up in a large family (she was the sixth of nine children) in Barnsley, which was then of course a major coal mining town. An interest in linguistics led her to taking a degree in translating and interpreting and her first professional job was as a translator in Brussels in 1984. This was the time of the miner's strike during a period of devastation of the mining industry. By 1991 she was back in the UK working with the Coalfield Communities Campaign, which was raising funds to help the employment prospects of miners who had been thrown out of work by the closure of the mines, and of those many others who had been affected by the subsequent reductions in trade.

She took a post with Barnsley Council working on the regeneration of the local economy before being elected to the European Parliament in 1998.

Her career as MEP

It could be argued that Linda McAvan has represented all that is best in a hard working politician.

She was first elected as Member of the European Parliament for the Yorkshire and The Humber constituency in 1998 and soon became a very active member. Amongst other assignments she worked with others on the Convention on the Future of the European Union, which was set up to produce a draft constitution for the EU, until 2003.

Her commitment to democracy and human rights led to her being voted the UK European Woman of the Year in 2002.

By 2004 she was treasurer of the European Parliament Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group, which was active in supporting political and economic democracy. By 2007 she was it's Vice President. A passion for protecting the environment led her to serving on the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), which was first viewed as a relatively unimportant committee but which became far more powerful as environmental concerns became more widespread. She worked on this committee for 10 years and between 2007 and 2009 she worked on the Temporary Committee on Climate Change.

Her work after Brexit

In 2008 the European Climate Foundation (ECF) was formed with the aim of promoting policies to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout Europe. Since she resigned as MEP she has been working for this organisation as executive director for European relations.

In the 2020 New Year Honours list she was awarded an OBE for her political and charitable work.

The present and future of Brexit

The Brexit agreement between the United Kingdon and the European Union had only been agreed for a matter of weeks before complications arose. Problems with obtaining sufficient quantities of anti- Covid vaccine resulted in a proposal by the European Commission that supplies to Northern Ireland be restricted, in case these were transferred to the United Kingdom; a decision which was rescinded after uproar on all sides.

In the meanwhile however dissatisfaction with the de facto border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom has caused considerable resentment to people on both sides of the border in the island of Ireland who have been adversely affected by this, leading to problems with deliveries and actual death threats to dock workers. The Northern Ireland protocol, only so recently agreed, has been described as 'unworkable' by politicians in both mainland Britain and Northern Ireland and so the Brexit story is by no means over yet.

Maurice Cohen, February 2021