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Newsletter 12/05/24

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Figures published this week show that the UK is no longer in recession, after recording 0.6% growth in GDP in the first quarter of 2024.

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Dear Subscribers,

Figures published this week show that the UK is no longer in recession, after recording 0.6% growth in GDP in the first quarter of 2024. This figure makes the UK, along with Canada, the fastest growing economy in the G7.

The EU has started legal proceedings against the UK after the government imposed a ban on eel fishing on Dogger Bank in the North Sea. The EU claims that the ban violates the Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed when the UK left the bloc. The ban is intended to prevent overfishing and the depletion of fish populations in the North Sea.

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Stormy waters ahead

Polling for the upcoming elections to the European Parliament in Ireland has shown independent candidates leading the traditional parties. This is being interpreted as a sign of frustration amongst Irish voters at their government’s persistent failure to tackle immigration and proposals for new laws banning hate speech.

Russia has discovered oil and gas reserves in Antarctica 10 times the size of the North Sea’s output over the past 50 years. Much of the reserves lie underneath land claimed by Britain. Exploitation of the continent is prohibited under international treaties to which Russia is a signatory, but the announcement will no doubt increase speculation that Russia and perhaps others are eyeing up reserves underneath Antarctica as oil and gas get harder to extract in other parts of the world.

Keir Starmer has said that he will scrap the government’s Rwanda policy if elected Prime Minister. His own plan is to improve policing operations against people smugglers. The announcement is disappointing for two reasons. Firstly because, if true, it will mean that a huge amount of public and political resources will have been wasted on a policy that barely lasts five minutes. Secondly, because it shows the incoming Labour government is not interested in policies which address the underlying causes of a problem – an asylum system that incentivises illegal arrivals – and more interested in heavy-handed attempts to treat symptoms.

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A man without a plan for illegal immigration

Media

Travis Aaroe for UnHerd on devolution

Louis Court on the Navy’s pitiful recruitment process

Blog

Sanghera on the British Empire: Weak, flawed, limited by Jeremy Black

Professor Jeremy Black reviews Sathnam Sanghera’s new book EmpireWorld. How British Imperialism has Shaped the Globe, and concludes that is is rather a good laugh that repeats well-established themes and serves them up in a familiar fashion.

There is a sense of profound laziness in much of Sanghera’s analysis. He really should have devoted more attention to the pre-Western history of the areas he discusses, for, as in Sudan, this history has persisted. In part, empire worked by adapting foreign rule into a practice of shared control, and that is as, or more, significant than resistance or violence.

If the UK wants to export goods, they are going to need cheaper energy by Catherine McBride

With the hoo-ha last week about whether Kemi Badenoch used deflated prices in her speech, no one bothered to ask what type of goods the UK exports and why these exports are or aren’t growing. Aggregated trade figures hide the excellent with the poor (or the constrained) and give a false impression to policymakers about what’s working, what isn’t and how to fix it.

Without reductions in the cost of energy, it is hard to see how UK manufacturers could make more internationally competitive goods nor how UK goods exports could increase. Luckily UK services are internationally competitive, and exports have been increasing. In 2023 services made up over 55% of the UK’s total exports (excluding precious metals). But even services need energy, and two new industries where the UK could potentially excel, data storage, robotics and artificial intelligence, need a lot of energy.

Key Points

Two Conservatives MPs have now defected to Labour, and there is much speculation about more in the coming weeks. One source says that Labour are in talks with 3 members of the governing party. Thinking through who gains what from these defections tells us a lot about the Labour leadership and the incoming government. Most voters are completely indifferent when backbenchers they have never heard of cross the aisle, but it causes much excitement amongst politicos and others working in SW1.

The defecting MPs themselves have little to gain politically from the defections. Both recent defectors have announced that they will not seek reelection, so it is not a seat in parliament which they are after. Some role in the next government might be on the cards, but they would have to be very naive to think that commitments made months before an election to a turncoat from the other party will hold water once Labour enters No. 10 in triumph.

Since the defectors are not well-known outside of their own constituencies (and, at least in one case, not well-known inside his constituency), Labour have little to gain electorally. A veteran campaigner who could carry thousands of votes in key constituencies would be one thing, but a backbencher who can’t carry their own team of local activists with them when they cross the aisle won’t add up to much when the election comes.

The defectors can, of course, be used to get headlines and to fill political chat shows with speculation about the weakness of the government. For a Labour leadership intent on managing the news rather than controlling outcomes, defections are an enticing prize. While some of these shows have large audiences, the conclusion that almost everyone who watches them draws is that politicians are not to be trusted, not that the great and the good are flocking to Labour in recognition of their potential to do good while in power.

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Briefings For Britain