When a farmers’ union warns of Brexit civil unrest, you know things are getting serious

Police and miners 1984/5
Tom Coburg

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has warned there could be widespread civil unrest because of Brexit, particularly if there is no deal. The last time the UK witnessed mass civil unrest because of industry cutbacks was during the 1984/5 miners strike.

Now this warning by the FUW is followed by a statement from Downing Street’s new Brexit chief that after the UK leaves the EU, workers’ rights will no longer enjoy the same protection as currently provided.

Civil unrest possible

Farmers’ Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts has stated that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, there could be “civil unrest” in rural areas.

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Prime minister Boris Johnson is on a visit to Wales, where he could receive a welcome similar to that given to him in Scotland.

Roberts added:

If the farming community have their backs against the wall, the only way they’re going to get from there is fighting their way through.

Farmers in Wales are particularly concerned about the future of the lamb industry, with one study suggesting that up to 92.5% of Welsh lamb exports could disappear if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.

But if there is civil unrest in Wales or elsewhere in the UK, the government is fully prepared to send in police and military to deal with it.

Workers rights under threat

Meanwhile, Downing Street’s new Brexit chief David Frost said that after Brexit, EU rules on workers’ rights should not be written into UK law, as had previously been agreed by Theresa May.

In response, Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady commented:

[the government is] threatening a catastrophic no deal, which would strip away existing legal protections and leave essential rights open to attack. Working people must not be dragged off this cliff edge without getting a Final Say.

Cliff edge job losses

But it appears many workers have already been dragged off the cliff edge.

According to one index that specialises in small business pricing information, the total number of jobs lost since the EU referendum stands at 243,702 (as of 30 July 2019). The site also provides details of job losses by region, industry sector, and employer.

Another review, by the Independent, lists the bigger companies that are announcing job cuts or moves to other countries since the 2016 EU referendum, many because of Brexit. These include:

  • Airbus, which in January warned it may be forced to shut UK plants.
  • Aviva, which intends to move assets to the Republic of Ireland.
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which is transferring staff to Dublin and Paris.
  • Barclays, which has transferred £166bn of clients’ assets to Dublin.
  • British Steel, which announced job cuts in September 2018 and which requires £30m from the government because of “Brexit-related” problems.
  • Credit Suisse, which has moved many of its staff to other European centres.
  • Dyson, which has moved its HQ to Singapore.
  • Ford, which says a no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” for its UK business and is cutting back on jobs (but did not indicate this was Brexit related).
  • Goldman Sachs, which sees its future in the UK as “outside our control”.
  • Honda, which announced that 3,500 jobs will go from its Swindon site (though it’s unclear if this decision was Brexit related).
  • HSBC, which with all the uncertainty over Brexit is experiencing a noticeable slowdown.
  • Jaguar Landrover, which is cutting 4,500 jobs, mostly in the UK.
  • JPMorgan Chase, which has plans to move as many as 4,000 staff to other European centres in the event of no-deal Brexit.
  • Lloyds of London, which is intending to move its entire operations to Brussels.
  • Michelin, which will be closing its Dundee factory with a loss of over 800 jobs (though not directly Brexit-related).
  • Moneygram, which has moved its London operations to Brussels.
  • Nissan, which is relocating the manufacture of its X-Trail to Japan.
  • Panasonic, which is moving its London HQ to Amsterdam.
  • P&O, which in future will operate under a Cypriot flag.
  • Philips, which is closing its Suffolk plant with a loss of up to 500 jobs.
  • Rolls Royce, which is to cut 4,600 jobs at its Derby plant (though apparently not because of Brexit).
  • Schaeffler, which because of Brexit uncertainty will close its Plymouth and Llanelli plants, losing 500 jobs.
  • Sony, which is moving its London HQ to Amsterdam.
  • Toyota has said it will be impossible to avoid the harmful effects of a no-deal Brexit.
  • UBS, which is moving its operations to Frankfurt.
  • Unilever, which threatened to move its UK operation to Rotterdam (though that decision has apparently been reversed).

The latest threat to jobs comes from Vauxhall at Ellesmere Port, which employs 1,000 workers.

Workers under seige

Whether it’s small or large businesses; car manufacturing or farming, workers across the UK are under siege, with their jobs lost or threatened. However, the reality is that this is not only about job losses, but rising food prices and a recession and the impact on people’s livelihoods.

A fightback is essential if further erosion of rights and job losses are to be avoided. And, as the FUW president says, civil unrest can not be discounted.

Featured image via Flickr – Paige

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