This week our Social Impact Briefing covers the worst-case scenario of a no-deal Brexit, heightened insecurity in Gaza, protests in Belarus and more.
| UK FACES SEVERE WORST-CASE SCENARIO WITH NO-DEAL BREXIT
Yesterday, a leaked presentation put together by the Cabinet Office’s EU Transition Task Force on the impact of a no-deal Brexit warned of food shortages, power outages, and the potential for the military policing British streets. The presentation — delivered to government ministers — also warned of price hikes, water rationing, and animal diseases ravaging the British countryside due to medicine shortages.
Britain is currently over a year into its EU transition period, which is due to end on the 1st January 2021. Recent reports from the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier suggested that trade talks are “going backwards”, while the British negotiator, David Frost, has acknowledged that a deal will “not be easy to achieve” before the Government’s own October deadline.
Ministers were also warned that “pandemic influenza, severe flooding, a Covid-19 second wave or an unruly exit from the transition period could cause a systemic economic crisis with major impact on disposable incomes, unemployment, business activity, international trade and market stability.” These problems could be compounded by ‘coordinated industrial action’, public unrest and a mental health crisis hitting disadvantaged communities the hardest.
In response to the leaks, a Government spokesperson said “As a responsible government, we continue to make extensive preparations for a wide range of scenarios, including the reasonable worst case. This is not a forecast or prediction of what will happen but rather a stretching scenario. It reflects a responsible government ensuring we are ready for all eventualities.”
We were promised an oven-ready deal and a year of opportunity. Instead, our economy is in flames, unemployment has risen to its highest levels, and the government wants to risk it further. It’s time ideology is put to the side in order to focus on the real priority: defeating the Covid crisis currently engulfing us…
| INSECURITY IN GAZA AFTER ISRAELI AIRSTRIKES AND BLOCKADES
Israeli planes continue to carry out almost daily air raids on the Gaza Strip since early August. Last week, airstrikes continued every night for 10 consecutive days in what Israel describes as retaliation for incendiary balloons being launched across the border. Israel insists it is only targeting Hamas sites, but there has been widespread reports of missiles striking schools, farmlands, and even a refugee camp, injuring a three-year-old child.
In addition to their air campaign, Israel has closed the only commercial crossing with Gaza, halting fuel imports. This has led to the already inadequate supply of electricity reducing even further from eight hours a day, down to four. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that halting Gaza’s only power plant would create problems in an already stretched health sector, with many patients relying on electricity to survive. The blockade will also impact access to water for the over two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The disproportionate strikes and blockade enacted by Israel in response to the 12 handmade projectiles fired from Gaza has received little condemnation from Western governments and media alike. Meanwhile, the Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip, half of whom live below the poverty line, continue to suffer.
| THE FALL OF EUROPE’S LAST DICTATOR?
Tens of thousands of people protested in Minsk for the second Sunday in a row, following an election result many believed was rigged in favour of the incumbent President Aleksandr Lukashenko.
Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for 26 years but Sunday’s protests represent the biggest challenge to his Presidency yet. Thousands of people poured into Minsk’s Independence Square, carrying the opposition’s flags and chanting “freedom”. This continues in the face of a police crackdown, the death of four people, and reports of demonstrators tortured in Belarus’ prisons.
But in a show of solidarity, fellow Baltic nations have formed human chains in support of the people of Belarus. This protest took place alongside the Minsk protests, and are symbolic of demonstrations that occurred three decades earlier – when Baltic states were fighting against Soviet Rule.In the UK, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab pledged to impose further sanctions on Belarus. Yet, Declassified UK, the leading website for in-depth analysis and news on British foreign policy, found that despite public condemnation, the UK military has been quietly building links with the Belarusian armed forces. This is, in essence, strengthening Belarus’ dictatorship – making any public statement against it futile.
| SPOTLIGHT ON… WORLD WATER WEEK
The world is in a slow but relentless water crisis, exacerbated by increased water usage and widespread pollution. Meanwhile, increased floods, droughts, erratic rainfall and storms threaten the livelihoods of millions of people across the world. And climate change is only expected to exacerbate these challenges.
Hosted virtually by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), World Water Week (Aug 24–28) aims to facilitate dialogue, research and awareness around these water concerns, including issues of sustainability and access.
The decisions made within the next decade are critical. Getting these right will have wider ramifications on our ability to feed the world’s growing population whilst adapting to some of the challenges that climate change poses. To explore some of the solutions being considered, you can view the World Water Week schedule here.