This is your Brexit wake-up call

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

MICHAEL FISH and the 1987 “hur­ri­cane”. Decca’s Dick Rowe turn­ing down the Bea­tles. Alan Hansen’s “you can’t win any­thing with kids”.

As far as so­called ex­perts get­ting it wrong goes, my prediction last year that a Brexit vote would be of lit­tle sig­nif­i­cance to the Jewish com­mu­nity was not the most em­bar­rass­ing of all time, but it is, I feel, now time to come clean.

Ten months on, and af­ter the Prime Min­is­ter fi­nally trig­gered Ar­ti­cle 50, it is ob­vi­ous there was an un­der­es­ti­ma­tion be­fore the vote. The im­pact of the ref­er­en­dum re­sult is be­ing felt just as keenly in the Jewish com­mu­nity as it is around the rest of the coun­try.

The prospect of Bri­tain leav­ing the EU has al­ready af­fected the price of kosher food, led to a flood of en­quiries for pass­port ap­pli­ca­tions in EU coun­tries, and threat­ened the fu­ture em­ploy­ment of staff at Jewish char­i­ties.

Since last sum­mer the JC has also re­ported on the prospect of a boom in post-Brexit trade be­tween Bri­tain and Is­rael, and pon­dered the pos­si­bil­ity of West­min­ster tak­ing back full con­trol over she­chita and brit mi­lah which have been over­seen by Brus­sels.

The ques­tion re­mains, then, of whether Brexit will be good or bad for Bri­tish Jews. Last May, I wrote that it was no sur­prise the ma­jor­ity of the com­mu­nity was lean­ing to­wards vot­ing Re­main. Not be­liev­ing that the leavers had any chance of win­ning, I claimed Brexit would have no great im­pact on Jewish is­sues even if it did hap­pen. My con­clu­sion: there was “no stand-out Jewish an­swer to the ref­er­en­dum ques­tion”.

That false as­sess­ment came af­ter a JC poll showed al­most half the coun­try’s Jews be­lieved Bri­tain should re­main in the EU, with 49 per cent say­ing they planned to vote Re­main and only 34 per cent back­ing Brexit. That was six weeks be­fore polling day, and even the most fer­vent leavers would at that point have prob­a­bly ex­pected a Re­main vic­tory.

The more scep­ti­cal among us may have sneered at the claim made last week by Rabbi Jeremy Con­way, head of the Lon­don Beth Din’s kashrut di­vi­sion, that Brexit was to blame for this year’s rise in Pe­sach food prices.

But the pound’s on­go­ing weak­ness has in­evitable con­se­quences. When so much kosher food is im­ported — whether from the United States, Europe or Is­rael — it is go­ing to hit us all in the pocket, and is al­ready do­ing so.

I have yet to hear any MP with a size­able Jewish con­stituency out­line how they will work to de­fend our ways of life. Nor has any com­mu­nal leader, to my knowl­edge, given an as­sess­ment of the po­ten­tial im­pact of Brexit on An­glo-Jewry.

Amid all the con­cern there has been a sur­pris­ing de­gree of lev­ity. Per­haps peo­ple are still in the de­nial stage. They need to snap out of it, fast.

The so­cial me­dia re­ac­tions this week weaved from the mildly hu­mor­ous to the sim­ply ridicu­lous. Some lit can­dles “to show our sadness and sense of loss”. Oth­ers posted memes wish­ing each other “Yom Brexit Sameach” or jok­ing about the straight­ness of ba­nanas. And who could not have felt tremen­dous re­as­sur­ance upon learn­ing that Re­form Ju­daism’s Rabbi Laura Jan­nerKlaus­ner was “re­leas­ing a prayer on the trig­ger­ing of Ar­ti­cle 50” along­side other faith lead­ers?

Many of us got it wrong in the runup to last June. But as the fo­cus moves to Brus­sels ne­go­ti­a­tions, we as a com­mu­nity need to take Bri­tain’s exit from the EU more se­ri­ously.

Yes, there will be two years — at least — of fur­ther un­cer­tainty. It is im­pos­si­ble to know what ex­actly the fi­nal exit deal will look like. What is no longer up for de­bate is that af­ter March 2019, Bri­tish Jews’ way of life will be markedly dif­fer­ent, and we must be pre­pared to deal with that even­tu­al­ity.

We as a com­mu­nity need to take Brexit more se­ri­ously’

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