UK gilt prices surged recently, connected to the announcement that UK inflation rates are likely to remain high. Bond prices are now at levels last seen under Liz Truss, though calls for Rishi Sunak’s dismissal are rather less in evidence. This is despite the recent, better news that the IMF has revised its forecasts for the UK economy – predicting slight growth over 2023 rather than a recession.
Along with the excessive pessimism of OBR forecasts, the Fund’s revised predictions underscore the dangers of abdicating control of economic policy to technocrats. As a result of these predictions, and the fiscal measures they dictated, the UK is now stuck with uncompetitive tax rates that disincentivise investment, together with a large and inefficient public sector. In better news, however, meat exports have been predicted to increase substantially in the long run as a result of accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Embaaa-king on a Trans-Pacific journey
Otherwise in the UK, it was announced that net migration reached record highs this year, despite historic high levels of emigration. University mathematicians have protested against guidance that Equality, Diversity and Inclusion should “permeate the curriculum and every aspect of the learning experience”. The head of the Human Rights Commission has resisted pro-trans attempts to have her dismissed
Outside the UK, the European Parliament may petition EU leaders to suspend or emasculate the successive EU presidencies of Hungary and Poland. How this can be legal remains to be seen, though if the matter ends up before the European Court of Justice it is probably a foregone conclusion. The UK is also considering closer defence co-operation with the EU, which critics warn could reduce our ability to procure the best arms from elsewhere and curtail strategic autonomy.
Birds of a feather flying together?
Geopolitically, there are worries that the US’s persistent reluctance to do trade deals under its last two protectionist presidents is pushing Latin American leaders into the arms of China. UK ministers are also concerned that attempts to increase the WHO’s powers to control another virus outbreak would severely limit sovereignty. Pragmatically, there is little good reason to trust an organisation that was so willing to kowtow to China over Covid and to fail to acknowledge the mounting evidence of the virus’s Chinese origin.
Briefings Co-editor Graham Gudgin was cited in an article for website Conservative Home discussing the issues with the OBR’s forecasts about Brexit hits to trade – you can read that here.
Rishi’s road to Realignment: removing the sunset clause, by Fred de Fossard
The government has made a pre-emptive concession and has amended the Retained EU Law Bill to remove its fundamental policy, a sunset clause on all remaining EU law for the end of 2023.
“The great value of the sunset clause was that it provided a firm deadline which the civil service would have to meet. Anyone with experience of the way Whitehall operates will know that deadlines are one of the most effective ways for ministers to see effective results in their departments. The tendency towards drift, distraction, and focusing on daily fire-fighting means long-term reform is almost always neglected.”
More fake Brexit news – this time from The Guardian, by Catherine McBride
The Guardian is trying to pretend that the UK is a large fruit exporting nation and that this trade is now being hampered by Brexit. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Actually, only UK export statistics have dropped. What the Guardian failed to mention is that the drop in fruit exports was really a drop in re-exports of citrus and tropical fruit and that this fall has nothing to do with trade barriers nor is it a risk for UK farmers, as The Guardian claims.”
More dubious Brexit claims – this time about imported EU food prices, by Catherine McBride
An updated paper from the CEP claims that 30% of the UK’s recent inflation was due to Brexit related non-tariff trade barriers. Catherine McBride reviews the trade data and finds that many other EU countries have seen similar increases in their food import costs, thus destroying the hypothesis that Brexit was the cause.
“UK retailers may have increased their prices to cover their higher interest rates, higher rents, higher wages, higher delivery costs, higher national insurance charges and/or higher corporate taxes. Yet these potential reasons for price increases appear to have been overlooked by the CEP’s analysis.”
A Question for the Cabinet Office on Investigations, by Nick Busvine
As someone who has spent a considerable proportion of their career – both as a civil servant and in the private sector – investigating corrupt practice and serious crime, I would very much welcome an explanation from the Cabinet Office about how and on what basis they choose to investigate senior civil servants and ministers.
“The urgency with which the civil service machine has chosen to pursue prominent Brexiteers stands in marked contrast to its approach to the so-called Labour ‘Beergate’ scandal. There has also been what can only be described as a shocking case of double-standards in the case of the senior civil servant Angus Lapsley – an avowed Remainer.”
Bakhmut victory or just more bull?, by Adrian Hill
As the Sunday paper headlines report that that the Russians have finally taken Bakhmut after 12 months of trying, former paratrooper and diplomat Adrian Hill reports that this is fake news.
“Prigozhin’s claimed victory over the remaining areas in Bakhmut is purely symbolic even if true. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in Washington DC see no evidence of any change on the battlefield, the part of the city near the Mig-17 monument.”
Readers may remember the scandal which surrounded the resignation of Kim (now Lord) Darroch as British ambassador to the US, after his disparaging remarks about then-president Trump were made public. Now, an anonymous civil servant who was twice investigated for the leaks under counter-terrorism powers, without charge either time, has brought a claim for misfeasance in public office against the ministers (representing their departments) in charge at the time.
In particular, it is alleged that government sources encouraged and publicised the police investigation to try and distract attention from the ambassador’s indiscretions. Lord Darroch was facing accusations that he had leaked information to a CNN journalist with whom he was allegedly having an affair.
Now, lawyers defending the government have applied for evidence to be examined in secret, without the claimant or his lawyers seeing it. These kinds of orders violate basic principles of open justice and judicial fairness, and should only be used when the information concerned is of the utmost national importance. It is highly unlikely to be appropriate here.
As Nick Busvine analyses for Briefings above, the affair highlights the double standards that apply to the highest members of “the Blob”. Senior officials like Lord Darroch or Angus Lapsely have their mistakes controlled and forgotten, and go on to be highly rewarded. Lower-level officials, by contrast, are hung out to dry.
Moreover, mandarins (perhaps prodded by politicians) have begun using bullying accusations to force out Conservatives they dislike. It is no coincidence that bullying accusations have been largely made against ministers like Priti Patel, Dominic Raab and Michael Gove. Suella Braverman is the latest victim of trivial accusations that she involved civil servants in arranging a personal speed awareness course – with the bizarre suggestion that this is somehow resignation-worthy misconduct.
We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
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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 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