The Merry Month – Robert Merry

The runaway train came over the hill and she blew. She blew!

Bo-yo’s million-to-one-against a no-deal Brexit comment on 26 June actually shortened the odds being offered by the bookies, which were already considerably lower than a million-to-one – in fact, commonly 2/1. As I write this, the best odds seem to be 7/4 as the new Prime Minister and his Cabinet party on the runaway no-deal train.

Does that encourage you to take a trip to Italy this year to visit Europe’s big international stone exhibition in Verona? What will you say to suppliers of increasingly popular marble and the makers of most of the machinery used by the industry in the UK?

Is this uncertainty what anyone voted for? The falling value of the pound; industry closures – car, steel; damage to agriculture; lorry parks; holiday queues; the threat to essential medicine supplies. It is not only the NHS that is short of staff. The construction industry might have to somehow find replacements for 165,000 EU workers who decide to go home? Some have already gone.

And toilet paper. One company has lately been fined £8,000 for not keeping its site toilet up to scratch. So start stockpiling. The United Kingdom is Europe’s biggest importer of loo paper and apparently we only have one day’s supply in the country. Start saving the free newspapers and cutting them into strips as back up (if you know what I mean).

Ah yes, but we’ll have our sovereignty back. The British Parliament will have taken back control (won’t it?) and British politicians clearly know how to run things.

What about stone quarried in Europe or bought from European stone wholesalers? It might take longer to reach us if the lorry parks are full and the queues long. There might be additional tariffs to pay. The paperwork will be irritating, though I expect we’ll get used to it.

According to government figures we import a lot more stone from China and India than the European Union. Perhaps some of the Italians supplying British projects directly from Italy and cutting out British processors will be discouraged from working in the UK. Although perhaps some of the British companies doing the same on the European mainland will find it hard to compete there, too. 

Those of you who have just been abroad for your summer holidays will already have experienced the weakness of the pound. But it hits more than the price of your pina coladas. Imported stone and machinery is also more expensive, no matter where it comes from.

Will those price increases bring opportunities for alternative materials? Perhaps. But they are also imported, so perhaps not.

UK quarries could benefit. Not much British stone is exported but if the price falls as a result of the weaker pound perhaps more will be. In the UK the higher price of imports will increase the competitiveness of British stone on its home turf, at least for a while, and a stone not subject to delays at the ports and additional paperwork could fill some orders previously destined to go to imports.

No marble is produced in Britain and not much granite, but economics might encourage us to discover new ways of using our indigenous limestones and sandstones.

If you haven’t had your fill of Brexit yet, the excellent UK parliamentary website gives access to the Libraries of the Houses of Commons and Lords and all things governmental. There are government papers on no-deal Brexit, trade tariffs, leaving the European Union and more.

Ding ding, the train  is leaving the station. And you know how rubbish we are at running trains… leaves on the line… too hot… too cold…

The runaway train came over the hill and she blew...

She blew.