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Three voices of desperation amid Brexit

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Britain is set for a new chapter after securing a hard-fought post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union. AFP

Three voices of desperation amid Brexit

They transport goods from Europe to Britain, export British produce to the EU, or recruit scientists and researchers . . . AFP has spoken to three people whose lives will be directly affected when Britain leaves the EU’s single market and customs union on December 31.

Dimitar Velinov, lorry driver

A truck driver with many years of experience under his belt, Bulgarian Dimitar Velinov, 74, says he is expecting long queues at the UK border from January 1.

“To me, Brexit means logistical chaos, which will hinder our work,” he explains in the garage of his employer Eurospeed, based in the outskirts of Sofia which employs more than 300 drivers.

Velinov says: “I transport goods across the European Union and for me it is important to be able to do my job without problems, without having to wait at borders for one or two days.”

Crossing the Channel was already difficult as for years migrants have tried to stow away illegally in lorries heading to Britain.

But Brexit will make it even more so, the driver says, complaining that he gets no sleep at all while waiting to embark from the French port of Calais to avoid heavy fines for those found carrying stowaways.

Sam Crowe, fisherman

“We want to leave, 90 per cent of fishermen want to leave,” says 26-year-old Sam Crowe from Scarborough in the north of England.

He says: “I still do feel like we are left in the dark a lot for what we do. The fish that we land and the scallops and the shrimps, all that is the freshest food on this planet and we’re not praised enough for what we do.”

Crowe, who principally catches crab in the North Sea for export to Europe and China, says he has been heartened to see UK politicians fighting for the fishing sector in negotiations. As talks came down to the wire, European access to UK waters was a key sticking point.

He says: “I’ve heard that they’ve been fighting for our quotas and obviously I am grateful for that.”

The fisherman feels the UK fishing industry will be given a new lease of life following changes expected to quotas that came with EU membership.

Fishing communities, like Scarborough where Crowe’s family have fished for generations, have been in decline for decades. They hope Brexit will bring about a regeneration of their way of life.

Crowe says: “Back in the day the harbour was full of people to welcome in the lads and help out . . . It’s just not like that now. Nobody’s interested.”

Tara Spires-Jones, academic

Neuroscientist Tara Spires-Jones, from the University of Edinburgh, is concerned about international collaboration between laboratories, which she says was “very easy” with membership of the EU.

“The changes of regulation, if it diverges from the EU, will be more difficult to share things like brain tissues and living cells,” says the academic who is also the director of the British Dementia Research Institute.

She cautions: “From day one, we will have more difficulties with ordering things, such as equipment.”

The researcher explains the end of the Brexit transition period will pose a “big problem” for British research funding, which is heavily subsidised by the EU.

“In our university, something between 20 and 30 per cent of our research funding is coming from Europe,” she says, noting there were no plans to replace this funding at the moment.

Though “no one will be fired on day one because of Brexit”, some of the contracts of the 10 people she employs will not be renewable.

“It’s a real threat,” she says, warning that there would also be an inevitable brain drain as European students stay away from Britain.

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