Beer and staff shortages – is this the Brexit you wanted, Tim Martin? | Femi Oluwole

Beer and staff shortages – is this the Brexit you wanted, Tim Martin? | Femi Oluwole
Can you imagine the entertainment value of watching Brexiteers argue with their past selves from 2016?

In this week’s episode of “Brexit vs Brexiteers”, we discover that Wetherspoon’s, the pub chain owned by arch-Brexiteer Tim Martin, is suffering from beer shortages, partly due to Brexit.

This is why we need to invent time travel. Sure, going back and stopping Brexit would be great, but can you imagine the entertainment value of watching Brexiteers argue with their past selves from 2016? The ratings alone would boost the economy so much we’d soon forget about Brexit and Covid.

But before we all start picturing Tim Martins past and present facing off in some weird version of a Dickens Christmas novel, the obvious question is, well, is Brexit really to blame? Wetherspoon’s has cited a lack of delivery drivers as the main reason why some of their branches are out of Carling, Coors and Bud Light. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) wrote to the government on 23 June warning that the UK had a shortage of over 100,000 HGV drivers.

So let’s get the obvious out of the way. Yes, in that letter, Covid is mentioned as one of the factors. Many of the 60,000 EU drivers returned to their countries of origin during the pandemic; the vast majority have not returned to the UK. It is worth mentioning, however, that this period coincided with our departure from the EU, making it difficult to say which was the main factor in the drivers’ decision to leave.

However, the RHA goes on to explicitly blame Brexit, saying that the uncertainty around their future in the UK was what made many of those 60,000 leave, and – more importantly – that Brexit is the reason they’re not expected to come back.

The RHA explicitly said we can’t train up British drivers fast enough. They also cited the ageing and retiring workforce as a growing problem. Those who immigrate to the UK are statistically younger than the existing population, meaning that immigration lowers the age of our workforce.

So what is the top measure the RHA is asking the government for? “Access to EU and EEA labour. We ask for the introduction of a temporary worker visa for HGV drivers and for this occupation to be added to the Home Office shortage occupation list.”

Sadly, in early July, Boris Johnson rejected a similar request in relation to the devastation that Brexit is inflicting on touring musicians. He basically said that Brexit was supposed to restrict immigration, so if we loosen visa rules for the music sector, where does it end? That means the government has already shown that they are willing to put their anti-foreigner Brexit ideology ahead of the economy, so I wouldn’t expect them to come to the rescue. I suppose Tim Martin will have to hope beer is an exception.

That means that right now, solving Tim’s troubles would be a lot easier if we were still in the EU, which he wanted us to leave. Enter 2016 Tim Martin: “Do people think we’re stupid!? I’m afraid they do. What is called ‘no deal’ really means free trade.” Now, obviously that’s incorrect, as a no-deal Brexit would have put tariffs on virtually every product we’d tried to sell to the EU. But a no-deal Brexit would also have trashed the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK, even more than Boris Johnson’s deal.

Meanwhile, 2021 Tim Martin has effectively called for more immigration to deal with the shortages in bar staff, and his pubs are blaming their beer shortages on a lack of HGV drivers, while both problems have been exacerbated by Brexit.

So the Brexit-supporting pub owner from 2016 has caused beer shortages for the pub owner in 2021. But at least Tim isn’t alone. Brexit-voting farmers are now panicking about an influx of cheap Australian beef. Brexit-voting unionists in Northern Ireland are furious that the union is now split. Brexit-voting fisherpeople have been protesting that they can no longer sell their fish. And the government that sold voters an “oven-ready deal” is now railing against the EU for not letting them reopen negotiations.

Seriously, we’ve got to start investing in time machines and popcorn.