Brexit is a matter of life or death

A stone building with signs saying "Pharmacy", "Post Office" and "Roche Pharmacy" on the sides. In front of it is a low wall, in front of which is a bench, a litter bin and a bus stop. The road is in the foreground.
Roche pharmacy, Cornwall

After my last-but-one post about the behaviour of Corbyn supporters on social media, a long-standing friend cut contact with me as I explained in my previous entry, and I had another exchange with the same friend I had the conversation with that prompted the first entry who told me she had “lost a few longterm followers” because she doesn’t “believe in the mass conversion to Lexit”, i.e. the idea of Brexit as a left-wing policy or one which can have positive outcomes from a socialist perspective. The fact that a large number of traditional Labour constituencies voted in favour of leaving in 2016 and that their demands have to be accommodated has become an article of faith for many Corbyn supporters; it is also rumoured that for him to support a second referendum will mean the resignations of a number of his front bench. This seems to obscure the fact that there are life-or-death consequences for this country leaving the EU at the end of March without a deal, especially given that the deal we have been offered is unacceptable to almost everyone who is not part of the government “payroll vote”.

The reason is that most of the drugs needed to keep this country’s health system running are imported from overseas, including vital drugs such as insulin for people with diabetes and chemotherapy to treat cancer. Our port system has evolved for the current realities of minimal border checks; there are no import or export tariffs for goods coming from or to the EU. Trucks containing drugs will get caught in queues on the other side of the channel, or be held for extended periods at airports while backlogs are cleared. Some of it, no doubt, is perishable and keeping it fresh will require fridges to keep running, which will cost money (which, of course, will be passed onto the taxpayer). People have been told by their doctors or pharmacists that they do not know how or if they will get supplies in after 29th March in the event of there being no deal. This is causing a lot of people intense worry. It is not a case of it ceasing to be available for nothing (it already is not, for most people); it is a case of it not being available at all, except maybe to the very wealthy or those who can pull strings.

It is not just a case of us losing the ability to travel freely and work and study in Europe, though that is bad enough. It is not just about the fact that the economy will shrink, international firms will move abroad, jobs will be lost and this will give the Far Right a much bigger supply of potential recruits, though this is worse. It is not even that the food we have become accustomed to having available (such as vegetables grown in Spain and Italy and trucked in) will become much more rare and expensive. It is that people will die from lack of the medications that we are currently easily able to import but do not produce ourselves (that, of course, is a scandal in itself in a country the size of the UK but cannot be fixed in two months). What I find staggering is that politicians are still arguing over such things as the backstop in Northern Ireland when the consequences of having a hard border around the UK at all are so dire.

I’ve got two family members who are receiving treatment for cancer. I don’t know what the particular situation is surrounding their treatment. But there are many families around the country who do not know if their relative, who has a cancer that is survivable, will be able to get the drugs that make that possible for more than two months. It is ridiculous. This alone should have politicians on all sides saying “it’s too late now; we have to put this on hold”. Perhaps it’s too much to expect from Tories who will lose a lot of face or cannot let go of the idea of a Britain without international standards or human rights (as that is the next step), but for Labour’s leadership to be chasing votes from bigots (who are not Lexiteers but rather people influenced by right-wing tabloids) rather than telling people it cannot be done? It’s unconscionable. This is why I have no quarter with the stupidity of people who support Corbyn whether he is right or wrong.

Pharmacy in Fore Street, Roche, Cornwall, from Geograph © Rod Allday; licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA) 2.0 licence.

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