(Crossposted to Livejournal / Dreamwidth)
Today is the last day. Today, we finally reach the end of this long process: Britain is leaving the EU. Brexit is accomplished. The struggle is over.
Ha! Only kidding. Brexit has never been a single day: Brexit is the period which starts on that day. So far, despite the political anguish, we haven't seen too many actual consequences of the decision to Leave, but believe me, there are consequences, and they are heading our way.
Very little is actually expected to change today: the current situation is that we have a Withdrawal Agreement which will keep the UK effectively part of the EU, but without representation in the EU, until the end of the year (or until a final deal is made). This is happening because the government has been utterly unable to agree a deal on what the final relationship between us and the EU should look like, and I have no expectation that they will manage to do so in the next 11 months. So a Crash-and-Burn ("No-Deal") Brexit is still not only possible, but likely at that time.
So what does that mean for the people on the ground? Oh, there'll be all sorts of stuff about Single Markets and Free Movement of People, but for the actual British people, what are the consequences going to be?
1. Prices will rise
One of the things we've mostly filed under 'ignore' is the various warnings that The Economy(TM) will be impacted by Brexit. There's no agreement on how bad it will be, but pretty much all the experts agree that it will be bad.
But... so what? Most of us aren't in The Economy. We don't have stocks and shares, we don't run businesses. Surely it won't affect us?
Except it will. Every aspect of the cost of living is set to rise:
-Do you own a house? Your mortgage rates are going to rise. Are you selling a house? The market's going to slump. Are you out of that whole mess and renting? Then it's your landlord's mortgage that'll rise - and they'll pass the costs on to you.
-Do you go to the shops? With the return of barriers to trade, imports from the EU - and that's a huge chunk of our imports - are going to be more difficult, and therefore more expensive. Spanish bananas. Toilet bleach from Finland or Germany. I dunno, sausages from Germany; go look around and see how many of the things you buy have an EU country of origin. And for the things that don't - do you really think supermarkets aren't going to spread the cost?
-How fond are you of water? Your tap water is treated with cleaning products, many of which come from the EU - that's more cost increases for your water company, and they will pass those on. Even the products made in the UK will be impacted, because the split between EU and UK chemical regulations means they now have to make two expensive registrations, and comply with two sets of laws. More costs for the manufacturer means more costs for the user means more costs for the public.
2. The EU (or corporations) will set the rules
Speaking of chemical regulations (this is literally my job, so yeah, I might go on about it), how do you feel about knowing your tap water won't give you lead poisoning? Because there's a regulation to ensure that - and it's an EU regulation.
Nor is it the only one. There are hundreds - thousands - of the blighters out there, and by and large the UK is going to keep on sticking right to them. There might be some cosmetic changes (I happen to know they've already invented a 'UKCA' mark to replace the 'CE' mark you find on electronics), but the actual regulations - the 'red tape', if you will, or the 'thing keeping you from being poisoned and/or exploded' - will remain the same. They pretty much have to, because the EU is and will remain our biggest trading partner.
When those regulations do change, it will be because someone has given the government reason to do so. And do you know who's been the biggest force arguing against the chemical - and other - regulations coming out of the EU? That's right - it's corporations. You know, the people who make the things that are being regulated, and would just love to make them for less money and with less quality control (and, while we're at it, without having to worry so much about keeping their workers safe, either). The EU is a big enough force to keep them at bay; the UK won't be, and is almost inevitably going to let safety standards decline. Hope you like the taste of mercury!
3. America is coming
The EU is our biggest trading partner, but with increased regulations that will likely drop off. That means other countries are going to try to get in on the act - and who is more likely to succeed than the nation we already have a 'Special Relationship' with, the United States of America?
And that terrifies me.
America is the country where people expect to have to spend tens of thousands of dollars of their own savings on medical treatments to keep them alive. It doesn't matter if it's cancer, diabetes, or a simple broken bone - they pay, and what they pay is determined by a 'free market' where the customers have no choice but to pay up, so the prices just keep rising. Do we want to engage in healthcare trade with a country that asks 'how much is your health worth to you?' and then demands you pay it?
America is the country where, for six years now, they've been supplying a city with water heavily contaminated with lead, because they don't feel the need to rush to deal with the problem. Do we want the companies behind that to compete for contracts in the UK? Hey, they'll be cheaper, after all - especially if your life expectancy goes down!
America is... it's just broken, in ways that I don't think its people realise. And because it's the big kid on the block, it absolutely will try to sway the UK to its way of thinking. And - given that we've just kicked ourselves out of our own trading networks because of sheer xenophobia - I'm terrified that our country will be all too easily swayed.
... okay, this wound up grimmer than I expected. BUT IT'S A GRIM DAY.