The Office for National Statistics revised its estimates for UK GDP at the end of 2021 by 2%. Instead of being 0.6% smaller in December 221 compared to pre-pandemic levels, the UK economy is now believed to have been 1.2% bigger. This makes the UK’s recovery stronger than Germany’s and on a par with France. It also undermines those who claim that Brexit has damaged the UK economy.
Sadiq Khan’s ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’ policy has been expanded, meaning many Londoners will have to pay £12.50 a day to use their cars. This is despite a lack of evidence that the policy will help London reach Net Zero targets or have an impact on air quality in the capital.
Londoners driven to distraction
A group of MEPs on a committee for constitutional affairs including Guy Verhofstadt have drafted a proposal to move away from unanimous decision-making in the Council of the EU and replace it with qualified majority voting. The areas that would be affected include defence, taxation, and foreign policy. This proves a point made repeatedly in the 2016 referendum: EU membership comes with a constant risk of ceding more power to Brussels.
The government is reportedly in advanced stages of talks with Tata Steel for a package of subsidies worth £500m. The funding is supposed to encourage the company to move away from coal to more environmentally friendly methods while also protecting jobs.
The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has commissioned a review into activism and impartiality in the police. She has voiced concerns that the police are prioritising ‘woke’ issues over actually fighting crime.
Met Police in action
Julian Jessop on the causes of inflation for the Spectator.
Ian Acheson on how Sinn Fein has captured the Northern Ireland Police Service.
Windsor Framework revealed as an unworkable con-trick by Harry Western
Government spin on the Windsor Framework has unravelled at record speed. As we predicted, the Framework looks like being unworkable on the ground. Far from removing the Irish Sea border as the UK government claims, it will impose very heavy costs on GB to Northern Ireland trade and damage living standards in Northern Ireland. This will add to pressures on the UK government to align the whole UK with EU law, thus negating Brexit. This is unsurprising – it was always the intention of the EU, and its friends in the UK, to use Northern Ireland in this way.
If we are right, then the WF is going to rapidly prove unworkable as existing supply chains collapse. This would be a repeat of what happened when the original Protocol was agreed – leading to the UK government panicking and unilaterally introducing a range of grace periods that effectively suspended large parts of the Protocol from coming into effect.
The Tall Thistle Syndrome: The SNP and NIcola Sturgeon by Ian Mitchell
Many Scots suspect that the nationalists take their cue from the Irish nationalism of a century ago which used violence to secure independence of part of the country from the United Kingdom. That was not the Norwegian approach and it is not the approach favoured by the vast majority of Scots. But some like camouflaged, bureaucratic violence. What sort of people are they?
So why do some people, when they find themselves in power, enjoy causing trouble to those they dislike? In many cases, the root explanation is a personal inferiority complex. The aggressive way in which the SNP reacts to criticism is evidence of that. Anyone who disagrees with the Party is criticised for “talking Scotland down”. For years, they would say that the reason for wanting independence was to disprove those who say that Scotland, in their words, is “too wee, too weak, and too poor” to be independent. Look, they say, we could be just like Norway!
The week in which the ONS admitted it was wildly wrong about the UK’s post-pandemic recovery is a good time to reflect on how much attention we should pay to public sector statisticians. Putting aside the historical record of revisions and inaccuracies, there are three features to note:
Firstly, there is no immediate incentive for accuracy. Unlike, say, their colleagues in the private sector measuring the value of publicly-listed companies or forecasting the movements of markets, public-sector statisticians receive no windfall when their estimates are accurate. Their funding is independent of their accuracy, so there is little financial incentive to gets things right.
Secondly, there is no immediate cost for being wrong, hardly even a reputational one. Estimates and forecasts are gleefully taken up by those whose narrative’s they appear to fit and headline figures are cited uncritically in the media. If anyone does take the time to pore through the details and finds questionable practices or blatant inaccuracies, they are likely to find the media’s attention has moved elsewhere and nobody is interested in correcting yesterday’s news.
Thirdly, they do not have to worry about competition. The preferred practice in Westminster seems to be to grant ‘independent’ bodies like the OBR or ONS a sort of monopoly on statistics – their conclusions are uniquely authoritative, and not on account of being the best in the business, but on account of being state-affiliated.
These features should encourage us to err on the side of scepticism when it comes to public-sector statistics. The historical record tells a similar story. Predictions and forecasts that Brexit would be an economic disaster (put out by public-sector bodies) have all failed to materialise. Briefings has repeatedly corrected attempts to prove that they have.
With no clear incentives to get things right and a history of excessive pessimism about the UK post-Brexit, public-sector statistics should be taken with a large pinch of salt.
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How you can help
There is much about Britain’s relationship with Europe that remains to be decided. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Do continue to send them links to our articles, especially on matters relevant to your constituency. Alternatively, make an appointment to speak to them at their next surgery. Let them know what you want post-Brexit Britain to look like. Yet it is also time for unity and reconciliation. Keep reading our posts and share links to our quality content to help others understand how leaving the EU has benefited the UK economy and democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact ofBrexit.
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A Cambridge Philosophy Graduate