OPINION - The Standard View: Labour shortages (and Brexit) are holding our economy back

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

You can’t get the service these days because businesses are struggling to recruit the staff. Across London and a wide range of sectors that are vital to our economy — particularly those that relied heavily on EU workers — vacancy rates are sky-high.

Brexit is not the only factor — the pandemic, early retirement and poor health are contributing too. But the Government has been warned by Confederation of British Industry boss Tony Danker that foreign workers are needed to “plug the gap” in job vacancies weighing down our economy. He was swiftly slapped down by Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister.

It was made clear before we left the EU, and it has come to pass now — Brexit has weakened our economy. Red tape has made it harder to export, while trade deals with faraway nations come nowhere close to repairing the damage from breaking away from our nearest and most important trading partners.

There is no such thing as a ‘Swiss deal’. First, Switzerland negotiated its relationship with the EU with a series of treaties over decades. Second, it is clear that the Tories, as currently constituted with various factions, would not request such an arrangement. Third — and perhaps most importantly — the EU is highly unlikely to offer it.

We need a reality-based approach that backs British businesses, boosts the labour supply, minimises economic pain and sets Britain on the path to sustainable growth.

Cop out on fossil fuels

It was, from one perspective, an historic agreement. For the first time, parties agreed to the establishment of a loss-and-damage fund to assist lower-income nations that are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Such a move is vital to rebuilding trust and is a clear step toward justice.

But on the key issue — that the world is on course for dangerous warming and that this is caused by the burning of fossil fuels – COP27 in Egypt was a disappointment.

Alok Sharma, Britain’s COP26 president, delivered an address at the closing plenary in which he despaired: “Emissions peaking before 2025, as the science tells us, is necessary. Not in this text. Clear follow-through on the phase-down of coal. Not in this text. A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels. Not in this text.”

Continued inaction on cutting emissions leaves humanity on the brink. Earth will survive, as it has done for billions of years. But a planet habitable for humans and other species, that will not see swathes of land rendered either too hot, too dry or simply vanishing under the waves — that is a different matter. And time is rapidly running out.

Chaos rules in Qatar

For the most controversial World Cup, it’s no surprise that the controversies keep coming. From overcrowding in fan zones to the U-turn on beer sales and now the threat of yellow cards for simply wearing an armband, Qatar 2022 has got off to a shaky start. Yesterday’s debatable VAR offside decision in the Qatar v Ecuador curtain-raiser was the most normal thing to happen for some time.

Still, the Standard, like so many in this country, will be cheering on England and (at least when they’re not playing each other) Wales.