It’s sunny outside, but Britain watches from its windows as the boredom of the lockdown starts to bite. We are no closer to knowing when this will end and the economic effects of the Covid-19 downturn are already being felt across the country. But there are some silver linings. One is a total eclipse of the partisan divisions which have haunted Britain since the Brexit referendum. Patriotism is newly popular – even with the ‘citizen of nowhere’ types. People across the country are reconnecting with their local community, hoping to help Britain emerge from the crisis in as strong a position as possible. Clapping for the NHS may be a little twee, but it is surely a good thing that so many people share the sentiment.
Brexit negotiations continue, albeit under the radar. On one of these neglected flashpoints is the EU’s desire to keep a customs office in Belfast. The EU’s request has been denied by the British government. Under the terms of the Irish Protocol, EU officials have a right to be present at customs checks, but checks are solely the UK’s responsibility. The UK government is concerned that the EU may be trying to implement joint customs checks by the back door. Joint checks featured in the EU’s original draft protocol but were rejected by the UK. An interesting Twitter thread by Tony Connelly (of Ireland’s RTE) discussing the situation can be found here.
In other news no one is watching, Labour have a new leader, Sir Keir Starmer. Sir Keir was one the architects of Labour’s disastrous second referendum strategy. Mercifully, he seems at last to have accepted the referendum result. Perhaps Labour will start offering some credible opposition again soon, though for the moment they are going to struggle to gain coverage at all.
The Coronavirus situation is – as the politicians keep reminding us – unprecedented. But it can amplify factors which were already at work. There is a mystery as to why Italy’s death toll from the Covid-19 virus is so high. The media has pointed to the high proportion of old people in Italy, but Japan with an even older population has a low fatality rate. Others point to the closeness of Italian families. Could Italy’s unfortunate membership of the Euro be another factor, since high unemployment has forced many young adults to live with their parents for many years?
If you are looking for something political to read during our national house arrest, you could try ‘Remaking One Nation’ by Nick Timothy, former Chief of Staff to Theresa May, published by Polity Books. Timothy is a BfB contributor and has written a short piece echoing the book’s argument for the BfB website. Polity Books also recently published ‘The Left Case for Brexit’ by another of our contributors, Professor Richard Tuck of Harvard University. As a BfB newsletter subscriber, you can buy both books at a 20% discount through the Polity Books website, using the code ‘VBT43’. Offer valid until 30 May.
BfB co-editor Graham Gudgin has authored two reports this week with colleagues at Policy Exchange on the economic measures taken by the UK and other governments to combat the Covid-19 virus. The first is entitled ‘Limiting the Economic Impact of the Covid-19 Virus’ and the second is ‘Speed, Scale and Simplicity: An update on UK economic policy measures to fight COVID-19’.
Graham has also written an article with the title ‘If the EU delivers No Deal after all, there will be little to fear – and much to gain’ for the Conservative Home website, discussing the implications of a No Deal scenario in December. They are not as worrying as many would have us think.
On the website this week
Charting this Crisis, by Ashoka Mody
Celebrated Economist Professor Ashoka Mody notes that the incoming data for Europe and, especially, Italy, is grimmer than anyone could have anticipated. But the framework that guided the economic and financial analysis of his two earlier pieces on the topic remains a useful way of tracking this unfolding crisis. He reviews the latest evidence, with a particular focus on the Eurozone.
“In addition to protecting themselves, are the Germans fiscally and politically willing and able to aid those unable to spend their way out of this crisis?”
Remaking One Nation, by Nick Timothy
Nick Timothy, former Chief of Staff to Theresa May, and now a journalist and writer, argues that Brexit is only a first step. As the coronavirus crisis shows, many of our problems stem from the beliefs and attitudes of those who have governed the country for years—a political class that manages to be ideological yet uninterested in ideas. Casting off that ideology is the next step.
“Paradoxically, we are governed by a political class that manages at once to be ideological yet uninterested in ideas. Casting off that ideology is the first step on a long journey towards better government and a better future for Britain.”
Company chairman and leading Brexit campaigner John Mills argues that we need to move to having a still lower pound – say parity with the dollar – if we are ever going to compete internationally on manufacturing. Then we would have export and investment led growth instead of import and debt led stagnation.
“The pound is still too strong… to make it worth siting much new light manufacturing activity in the UK rather than in China or Germany.”
Should the UK stay in Erasmus+? By Brexit Facts4EU and the Campaign for an Independent Britain
This report examines the issue of whether the UK should remain in Erasmus+, the EU’s youth exchange programme. The government’s current stated intention is to continue to participate, but with the caveat that it must be in the UK’s interests to do so. Yet the available evidence suggests that the European focus of the scheme means it is not meeting most UK students’ educational needs.
“Cultural exchange is always valuable in its own right, and international students undoubtedly make a positive contribution to the UK in many different respects, not all of which can be quantified. Nevertheless, every financial commitment has opportunity cost.”
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 Brexit still 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 – for example, in rural areas, articles on the threat to British agriculture. Alternatively, make an appointment to speak to them at their next surgery. Let them know what you want post-Brexit Britain to look like.
As Boris Johnson said in in his post-election address, 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 will be good for the UK economy and for our own democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.
An Oxbridge 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