Once Britain’s construction and poultry industries were markedly hit by an exodus of EU workers, the domino effect rolled over and next in the line of calamities stood the transportation sphere with its lack of almost 100,000 Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers. A drop of 72,000 lorry drivers contributing to the broader problem extended between June 2019 to the summer of 2021. While 25,000 of these are projected to have been EU workers leaving Britain, retirement and pay rates accompanied the domestic unwillingness to remain in the HGV transport sector.
The government responded without hesitation in bringing forward an ambitious proposal to issue 4,700 temporary lorry driver visas and another 300 for oil tanker truckers with validity from early October to Christmas Eve. Yet, that proved to be acutely ineffective despite the visa extension to 28 February 2022 – in fact, the Prime Minister corroborated the worrying statistics that just 127 applications had been submitted under the scheme.
Notorious for its long working hours, heavy conditions and unsatisfactory pay rates, the HGV lorry driver profession is an unpopular career choice. Even though there are hopes planted for addressing the crisis by training 6,000 truckers and potentially re-calling their superannuated colleagues, candidates are reluctant to apply for vacancies, even though some haulage companies have offered remuneration increases by as much as 42%. Therefore, analysis indicates it may take up to eight weeks to recruit HGV lorry driver cadres, and this is worsened by the decrease of willingness to apply justified by the short-term duration of the visa project. Another research concluded that every single one of its 796 surveyed haulage companies had spare vacancies, so ultimately, the problem ostensibly laid in that no one wished to apply.
There’s another cataclysm on the horizon – the energy prices’ surplus. Low gas storage from the preceding year complemented by high Asian gas needs jeopardises the continuity of production, and consequently the employment in the manufacturing sphere. The government is likely to be forced to deal with higher food and goods’ prices, adjoined by winter price caps of £1,660 and an ultimatum of possible energy poverty for up to 1.5 million households.
Once the clock signalled the end of 31 December 2020, Britain’s transition period was terminated, which officially marked the end of the country’s membership in the EU. This injection of national sovereignty meant the Prime Minister could enter the pursuit of his ‘global Britain’ policy, so logically Britain commenced negotiations to liaise deeper with alternative partners.
A shake of hands between Boris Johnson and Jacinda Ardern confirmed the new Britain-New Zealand trade deal seeking to abolish the 10% vehicle and textile and 5% metal tariffs, also facilitating the conversion of British qualifications.
This emulates the terms of the ‘historic’ British-Australian market covenant eradicating all tariffs on imported UK food, drinks and manufactured goods, boosting both the British and Australian domestic markets. Business development between the two nations will continue to fare even better with more open travel and work plans for Brits aged under 35.
Junior UK lawyers immerse in the benefit of this – from previous rigid dual qualification rules, they will from now on not need to re-qualify, which is a tumultuous step for London City firms with branches down under.
Boris Johnson’s government sought further cooperation upwards of the Oceanic states by delving into parleys with Singapore and Indonesia, respectively, for strengthening the technological partnership and digital innovation exports with the former and leveraging tighter collaboration in the education, defence, healthcare, finance, food & beverage and technology economic fields with the latter. A trans-Pacific jump over to Canada and Mexico affirmed Britain’s aspirations to expand tariff-exempt trade and amplify the £27.9 billion capital derived from the economic alliance with these nations.
While Britain’s steady vaccination rates and trials of the first Covid-treating pill binned the rigid traffic light system to promote global business travel once again, improvements were tenuous on a more local basis. Late January was not short of critique by the former head of government Theresa May over Johnson’s mismanagement of Brexit and European relations and the fall of British exports to the EU by 68% in comparison with last year.
For example, small and middle-sized dairy manufacturers were particularly hit severely by the customs duties between Mainland Europe and the British Isles. Once the first quarter of 2021 rolled over, EU imports were stated to have declined by almost 30% (to illustrate that – Britain left Germany’s top 10 trading streamlines) and trade anxiety was supplemented by the Northern Ireland Protocol disputes and riots, plus the promised EU lawsuits for Britain’s breach of international law.
The connection between the two parties continued to deteriorate with disputes over the unlawful detainment of EU nationals with secured working and residence rights in the UK (known as pre-settled or settled status, contingent upon which one qualifies for).
With the passing of 30 June (the deadline to submit settlement applications), Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, promised robust deportation measures, whilst ministers were slammed with outrage at the 69p-per-minute charges on the telephone helpline used by EU nationals to prove their rights to employers and landlords. Following the classification of EU students as ‘international’, the alienation became even more pervasive with the drop of EU students matriculated at British universities by over 40% when juxtaposed with last year.
A perpetuation of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (abbreviated to COP26) held in Glasgow between 31 October and 12 November was the main event on the back quarter of the year.
As 71% of all CO2 emissions and more than a third of global electricity stem from coal burning, unsurprisingly Chile, Poland and Vietnam were among the 40 states to solidly commit to ending the use of coal by 2030 for leading economies and a decade later for those catching up on economic growth. One major absence was that of President Xi Jinping, leader of the highest carbon dioxide omitting nation, who provided a written declaration stating China’s ambition to slash coal usage by 2060. The Chinese head of state quickly fell under Joe Biden’s blade of criticism, albeit America’s signature not featuring in support of the coal discussions either.
Asian resistance to fossil fuel projects came from China, Japan and South Korea, whereas India affirmed that they cannot comply by 2050 to reach the net-zero target and it would instead take 20 more years to come close to such an achievement. On the contrary, South Africa might just achieve the opposite in an orderly fashion through the $8.5 billion it will receive to fully erase its employment of coal. Further on the positive side, methane emissions would be attempted to be ceased by 100 UN members. The very same number of countries conceded that deforestation would be tackled completely by 2030, with the projector lights falling on the Amazon rainforest and the Congo Basin, although Indonesia has stipulated that it may not abide by that mission. Other points of account revolved around the Finnish proposition of branding nuclear energy as ‘sustainable’ and the peak of oil prices to $80 per barrel – the loftiest in the last seven years.
Meanwhile, amid the heights of dialogue, protesters accumulated in Glasgow, motivated by the presence of Ed Miliband and Greta Thunberg, the latter of who deemed the conference a ‘PR event’. Nadhim Zahawi, the former Minister of Vaccinations and current Education Secretary, reacted by conferring that global warming dangers would be engraved in the school curriculum by 2023 and structured in an award emulating the Duke of Edinburgh prize.
What makes COP26’s effect uncertain is the legal precedent that is (not) to be set due to the Kyoto protocol’s provision that any pledges during the conference hold no binding legal action, so public trust rests on the shoulders of world leaders to maintain environmental issues in the heart of the uniform post-COP26 global agenda.
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