It hasn’t been a particularly good week for the reputation of the civil service. As if controversies over the failures to recover Covid loan fraud by the Treasury weren’t enough, it appears the Home Office has four times as many experts dedicated to PR as it does on fraud. This waste often has a woke tinge, from courses in witchcraft to funding Chatham House discussions of the gender iniquities of the nuclear deterrent to expensive “diversity tsars” (surely an oxymoron?).
Aside from costing a great deal of time and money, these diversions cement a hostile culture in the civil service, making serious reform impractical. It underscores the fact that, two years on from leaving the EU, many of its worst influences remain in our political life.
In the Tory leadership race, Liz Truss’s victory seems increasingly likely. With this fact has come a wave of somewhat mercenary endorsements from former rivals like Sajid Javid and Penny Mordaunt, presumably with more than half an eye on plum cabinet roles.
Although Briefings prefers Truss to Sunak, there is a danger that a new prime minister lacking a direct electoral mandate will defer more to party and administrative grandees at the expense of the bold policy needed. Instead, the new leader would do well to heed the advice of people like Lord Frost of Allenton – whose recent recommendations for the new prime minister have been published by Policy Exchange.
In Ukraine, Ukrainian national forces are mounting an offensive in the south. They claim to have destroyed several bridges over the Don, which if true would severely impact the logistical position of Russian forces west of the river. Ukrainian partisans in the occupied south have also assassinated several pro-Russian local officials.
Carrying the Message Home
Globally, the Israel-Gaza conflict has flared up again, as Israel resumes its intermittent bombardment of the strip in reprisal for rocket attacks. China and the US squared off over the visit of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, the first by such a senior member of government for decades. China has orderde a massive military exercise in the area in retaliation.
Briefings contributor Gwythian Prins was on LBC Radio on Wednesday, discussing the war in Ukraine. Editor Robert Tombs wrote two articles, one addressing two recent books’ coverage of Brexit and another looking at the Napoleonic-era statesman Lord Castlereagh. Robert also appeared on Spectator TV, cautiously but firmly expressing support for Liz Truss.
Rishi Sunak is dead wrong about UK farming and the Australian trade deal, by Catherine McBride
The reality of the UK’s trade deal with Australia shows that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer has never read it, knows nothing about agriculture and is treading on shaky ground when it comes to Britain’s rural economy and efficient food production.
“If Sunak is to be an effective Prime Minister, he will have to learn to do his own homework and stand up to vested interests and lobbyists – like the NFU.”
Cut the cost of living. Abolish food taxes, by Tony Lane
Former head of trade policy at DTI argues that a simple way to cut the cost of living is to remove the tariffs imposed on Commonwealth and other non-EU food imports
“The Johnson government’s food taxes are a reversal of Britain’s traditional policy. In adopting them it may have thought it was protecting British farmers. But British farmers cannot supply all the food required to feed the present population and shutting out the Commonwealth leaves us dependent on high-priced imports from Europe.”
Much of the media narrative around the UK’s economic issues focuses on the supposed effects on Brexit – the theory being that supply-chain issues have exacerbated inflation.
In reality, though, the UK’s economic performance is fairly average compared with other developed countries. According to the OECD, UK inflation ran at 8.2% in June, compared to 10.2% across developed states. By comparison, Germany in the same month had 7.6%, the US 9.1%, and Spain 10.2%. France, at 5.8%, is a true outlier – the French state has opted to hold down energy price rises, though with the eventual result that the costs will be borne to individuals as taxpayers rather than as consumers.
More generally, the IMF’s growth forecasts suggest the UK will continue to outgrow the Eurozone and the US in 2022, before slowing down harder in 2023.
Doing things Differently
Briefings contributor Gwythian Prins wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph along with Professor Nigel Biggar and former housing minister Robert Jackson. We reproduce the text below:
“SIR – Berny Torre reports (July 29) that Cecil Rhodes, “while not a slave trader… supported apartheid-style measures in southern Africa”
This is misleading. First, not only was Rhodes not a slave trader, but his British South Africa Company also positively supported the suppression of that trade in Nyasaland.
Secondly, the policy of apartheid or “separate development”, promoted by the South African government almost half a century after Rhodes’s death in 1902, assumed that black Africans were biologically incapable of being integrated into democratic political society. Rhodes, however, believed that any “man, white or black… who has sufficient education to write his name, has some property, or works” to be worthy of the vote. And when the government of Cape Colony proposed to disfranchise most black people in 1899, Rhodes argued that the vote should be extended to Africans under the principle of “equal rights to every civilised man south of the Zambesi”.
History is indeed a foreign country; those who venture there should avoid anachronisms.”
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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 – 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 benefits the UK economy and our own democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.
A Cambridge PhD Student
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge