Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Conference review: Brexit on the beach

This is part of a series of review articles from Labour 18 conference

There seem to be few areas of our lives left untouched by Brexit. From our health service to our scientific research; our manufacturing to our financial services, it’s clear the impact of our decision to leave the European Union will be felt across regions and classes, a truly national tragedy. Amidst conversations about shortages of vital medicines, and losses of thousands of jobs, it would perhaps be easy to underestimate Brexit’s impact on what might seem to be one of our more mundane traditions – the great British holiday.

Yet, our discussion, with Charles Owen (CEO of European Pubs), Andrew Adonis and Alison McGovern MP, was far from the traditional playbook of Brexit discussion. As in many other discussions the speakers highlighted the impact on worker and consumer rights, and uncertainty was a key theme. However, what was especially striking was the breadth of impact that uncertainty in the foreign travel sector would have, and how that is already affecting workers and travellers.

Far from being an issue for the metropolitan middle class, it was clear from Charles’ analysis (and research put together by Seasonal Businesses in Travel, an association of travel companies he founded) that the disruption in the tourism industry would lead to a lack of opportunity for young people. Many seasonal workers (a significant proportion of the 25,000 supported by the European holiday industry) would not have the opportunity to experience living and working abroad without the opportunities created by the EU, and the industry.

Disruption in the labour market is also putting small firms at risk. Far from being the diverse hub of small enterprise – the ‘Global Britain’ envisaged by the Brexiteers – additional costs to small businesses mean they are in danger of folding altogether, or at the mercy of multinational firms who are likely to choose to locate themselves in mainland Europe, where they can take advantage of the benefits of EU membership.

What about consumers? We were lucky in the audience to have a representative from Which?, the consumer rights organisation, asking what our panellists thought holidaymakers should do about booking their trips. The conclusion? It seems, like much of our Brexit future, uncertain, but costs look set to skyrocket. The era of the package holiday for all is over.


This event was in partnership with European Pubs


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Joe Cox

Joe Cox is digital assistant at Progress

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