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Brexit is happening, time to get ur grab bag ready

gal-dem editors are ready to let you have a peek into what they'll be packing in their Brexit grab bags. From toilet roll to tangfastics, get ready for shortages.

31 Jan 2020

Illustration by Soofiya

It’s finally Brexit day, and as we continue to weather the storms of a sharp rise in racist and xenophobic attacks since the 2016 referendum, we’re remembering the advice from Police Scotland, who told people to stock up their “Brexit grab-bag”. A tweet from them advised that our emergency packs should contain essentials such as a first aid kit, seasonal clothing, and a radio (every apocalypse needs a soundtrack). 

Last year, an eyebrow-raising “worse-case” Brexit scenario – part of the UK government’s contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit named “Operation Yellowhammer” – was leaked to the press, causing Greggs to stock up on bacon ahead of a long, cold winter. The pessimistic paper is a white-knuckle ride through predicted disruptions to the supply of food, fuel and medicine, and mentions that “low-income groups will be disproportionately affected”.

Of course, wealthier people will find it easier to weather the storm as money really can buy anything, even when resources are scarce. Food banks across the country, which are already over-stretched thanks to catastrophic welfare reforms, are preparing “crisis responses” in anticipation of a surge in demand.

Clearly, the mess of Brexit is unlikely to be mitigated by thermal socks. Nonetheless, in a time of chaos, with the Home Secretary making gleeful proclamations about ending free movement whilst the flickering flames of hellfire dance in her eyes, gal-dem editors turned thoughts to the contents of our Brexit grab-bags, in the event of a #GetOut scenario.

Tara (Music Editor): Is amassing joyful resistance too abstract? Can you have a grab bag full of happiness for when things get particularly bleak in this looming winter of discontent; the time of year when SAD will meet stockpiling? I guess ultimately what I will be in need of is comfort food (the health limitations of stress-eating are not something I am willing to face up to at this point) – so all of this might just mean slinging the backpack I normally take to festivals over my shoulder and raiding the aisles at Lidl for as much pasta and rice as I can fit. Also, what’s the situation with tinned tomatoes, chickpeas and fresh garlic going to be? Will spices and masalas be readily available still?? And I guess I’ll maybe throw in some red wine. Only the essentials, obviously.

Leah (Politics Editor): As someone with a fragile disposition who pops ibuprofen at the slightest flicker of a headache, painkillers will definitely be a key component of my Brexit grab bag. Fear not: the NHS is urging patients not to stockpile medications in the case of a no-deal Brexit, and its website reassures that there are “tried-and-tested” ways of mitigating the impact of temporary medicines shortages, so I’ll only be pocketing a few packets of Boots’ basics. However, concerns have been raised about maintaining stocks of prescription medicines with short shelf-lives, and in the House of Commons, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab glibly responded to an issue raised by a person dependent on life-saving medication by telling them to “get behind this government, and get a good deal in Brussels”. Frankly, the NHS has enough on its plate trying to keep its services running in the face of devastating funding cuts, so I’ll also be packing some home remedies to stave off the inevitable aches and pains: basil oil to soothe period pains, root ginger and mint tea for nausea and indigestion, and clove oil for toothaches. 

Niellah (Life Editor): Passport? Food? No, I’m grabbing toilet roll. So, the UK may only have a short term supply of toilet roll available every day, and guess where we get most the supplies from? That’s right, Europe! This current political landscape is already filthy enough, let alone with the added prospect of a country without bog roll. It might sound silly, but last year one of the UK’s largest toilet roll suppliers reportedly stored 3.5m rolls of loo and kitchen roll in UK warehouses in case of a no-deal Brexit, yet we’re also being told there’s nothing to worry about and not to stockpile. Which one is it! I’ve watched enough zombie apocalypse films to know how this goes, you’re always told not to worry and then bam! There’s no toilet roll. As someone who belongs to the group of avid leg washers, best believe I’ll also want toilet roll in these messy, messy times. 

Micha (First Person Editor): For the past three years I’ve been deeply stressed about Brexit – so thinking about this grab bag has got my heart racing. Why do I need a bag? Why am I grabbing it? Where am I going? These questions exemplify the uncertainty that has characterised Britain’s limbo-state since the referendum and the confusion that the near future will also bring. I’m serious, why am I packing a bag? I have no sense of time or space, no sense of the future. Crucial deadlines shift, while US outlets write explainers telling their readers that this moment is crucial for solidifying “Britain’s place in the world”. Are we moving somewhere? Where are we going? What time is it? For these reasons, I’m packing an old fashioned map and a trusty wristwatch. I just need to understand some things. 

Rosel (Former Intern): There’s no answering this question without stating the fairly obvious: citizenship. I have a Swedish passport and I’m currently banking on flatpack furniture and questionable meatballs having sway with the British government. Provided I do become a British Citizen™, then I’m bagging the right to needlessly shout “It’s coming home” during the next World Cup and finally understanding why people enter tube carriages before letting everyone else get off. In addition to this, complicated transnational feelings about notions of “home” and building support networks for people with precarious immigration statuses are on my list. Also tangfastics Just in case.