Newsletter 04/06/23


The government is considering fixing maximum prices for supermarket goods. 

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Dear Subscribers,

The government is considering fixing maximum prices for supermarket goods.  Like the energy price cap, such measures are often expensive, ineffective and inefficient.  The voluntary arrangement proposed is unlikely to be any different.

More dirigiste economic management appears to be in vogue, however.  Housing is a good example.  We reported on the pitfalls of the Renters Reform Bill a couple of Newsletters ago, and Labour has recently announced plans to allow local authorities to compulsorily purchase land without taking into account its “hope value” if planning permission were granted.


A hoped-for high rise

Giving local authorities the power to procure land cheaply like this risks profiteering by unscrupulous developers enticing councillors to buy land at reduced rates which they can then redevelop and sell at inflated prices.  It is an unfortunate truth that Local Authority development scandals are already all too common.  Planning laws do need to be eased, but in ways that don’t carry such obvious risks.

Northern Ireland has left the headlines for now.  However, the construction of border posts at the region’s ports to check incoming goods from the UK to implement the Windsor Framework could prove a source of tension.

The Republic of Ireland, meanwhile, has brought in strict new hate crime incitement laws which would make mere “preparing or possessing” “material likely to incite hatred” an offence.  One wonders if the laws will be applied rigorously to extreme IRA apologists and advocates.

In the wider world, US politicians agreed to lift the debt ceiling days before the nation was due to default on its debts.  Such brinksmanship is not unusual, but it is an indictment of the state of the country’s politics.  In Turkey, President Erdogan was re-elected by a fairly narrow margin despite a media and regulatory climate weighted heavily in his favour.

The European Commission has blocked publication of the details of its contract with Pfizer.  The Commission has been criticised for over-ordering vaccines without negotiating for a decrease in orders if there was no Covid outbreak.  After botching its deal with AstraZeneca, this is the latest embarrassment for Brussels’ vaccine procurement negotiators.


In addition to Matt Goodwin’s book Voice, Values and Virtue reviewed below, readers may also be interested in a new title called Sovereignty and Democracy after Brexit, whose lead author is former Briefings contributor Phillip Cunliffe.  The book examines how EU membership entrenches elite dominance of members’ democratic orders and makes some recommendations for how the UK can undo this process.


Prophets of decline, by Robert Tombs

What are the views of the people who represent us abroad and direct our foreign policy? If Lord McDonald is typical, they have largely given up on Britain.

“Do China and India provide a meaningful yardstick for Britain?  If so, one would equally have to acknowledge the ‘absolute and relative decline’ of Germany, France, the United States, Italy, Russia … Indeed, everywhere.”


Book Review of Voice, Values, and Virtue, by Briefings for Britain

Professor Matthew Goodwin’s new book, Voice, Values and Virtue does the best job we know in describing the liberal cosmopolitan revolution of the last four decades including the rise of populist movements, identity politics, and polarization in contemporary societies. The main political cleavage now is between traditionalists and radical cosmopolitans who impose their radically progressive cultural values on a nation the majority of whom hold more conservative values.

“Goodwin has subsequently argued that the Conservative party had to make a choice between the traditionalists with their counter-revolution and the liberal cosmopolitans and their decades-long revolution, but failed to so. In attempting to ride two horses they have failed to satisfy either.”

Key Points

This week has seen the usual rash of economic scare stories repeated about the cost of Brexit.  In short order:

  • Commentators are repeating a report by LSE researchers that claims that UK food prices would only have increased by 17%, not 25%, since 2019 if the UK had remained in the EU. As Catherine McBride has argued for Briefings, however, these estimates are dubious.  There are no obvious explanations for why this would happen – the UK has imposed neither tariff nor non-tariff barriers – and the yardstick used to measure the increase appears to be a mirage.  Imports from competitors like Australia and New Zealand, made possible by Brexit, could also help prices fall.
  • On Radio 4, ex-US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers also blamed UK inflation on Brexit. His view largely reflects that of US Democrats – who erroneously equate Brexit and Trumpism, view British membership of the EU as a means of advancing US economic interests in the region, and who are conscious of the gains to be made amongst Irish-identifying American voters from bashing Britain.  The reality, again, is that Brexit has had little or no negative impact on the UK’s economic prospects.
  • On Question Time, the Chancellor of Oxford University Chris Patten made a number of dubious claims about the UK’s recent economic performance, including the eyebrow-raising statement that the UK was now poorer per head than Lithuania. This is nonsense.


An Injudicious Refusal for Judicial Review?


The government has refused to release certain of Boris Johnson’s Whatsapp messages to the ongoing Covid inquiry.  In response to the inquiry’s request, ministers have brought judicial review proceedings seeking to show that they aren’t obliged to pass over the texts.

Notwithstanding their opposition, Mr Johnson has offered to pass the messages over himself.  It is interesting, therefore, why the government wishes to prevent their release – the obvious inference is that the texts are unflattering for politicians and/or civil servants.

The saga is the stranger because Mr Johnson’s old phone currently cannot be accessed.  In May 2021 it emerged that his mobile number had been available on the internet for over 15 years.  He was therefore advised not to turn on the device in future.  The organisation connected with suspected data breaches in Number 10 was the Israeli firm NSO Group – which in turn is connected to UK financier Stephen Peel, a keen supporter of anti-Brexit lobby group Best for BritainTwitter


We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.


Discussion also continues over on Facebook.

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 of Brexit.

You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Yours Sincerely,

Newsletter Editor

A Cambridge PhD Student

Dr Graham Gudgin

Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge

Professor Robert Tombs

Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge


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Briefings For Britain