I will be celebrating the ‘New year’ on 31st January 2020, although I cannot help be a little annoyed by the fact that we have to celebrate at 11:00 rather than 12:00 – presumably for the convenience of Brussels! Having said that, it is a very small price to pay for our freedom.
This year will be momentous, as not only are we escaping the EU, but we will have to conclude a trade deal with the remaining Member States: and judging by the mendacity, hypocrisy, obfuscation, bloody-mindedness and vindictiveness we have suffered during the last three long years, the next may give us more of the same. Or will it? We are no longer ‘led’ by a ‘remainer’ who prevaricated for three years and in the process both her and her fellow-travellers gave hope to the EU through their actions and pronouncements. As he promised, Boris will abide by the result of the biggest referendum in UK history, and take us out of the EU.
The job, however, is not yet finished.
By the end of next year, I look forward to reading our new Free-Trade deal with the EU, taking us back to the days of the Common Market, when all the EU concerned itself with was terms of trade and reducing barriers to export/import. The Prime Minister has made a start, by enshrining in law that negotiations will not last more than one year – this should focus EU minds, and show them that if they wish to retain unfettered access to our market for their cars, wine, cheese, clothing, cosmetics, furnishings, furniture, chocolate, and industrial goods, then they will have to reach an agreement by the end of this year. Failure to do so will result in adopting WTO terms of trade, which will hit their exporters considerably harder than it will hit ours. As neither side wants this to happen, it is in both our interests to ensure that it does not. Perhaps those people who have been helping Brussels over the last three years by their continued criticism of our decision to leave, will now cease their ‘Fifth Column’ activities and do something positive to help the country. From their privileged positions, it is very easy for the likes of Blair, Mandleson, Hesseltine, Major, and Osborn to arrogantly oppose the will of the people, but now is the time for them to help their country; people such as these have said that their opposition to Brexit was based on their fear that leaving the EU would harm this great nation of ours. Well I have news for them… Nothing harms us more than a few privileged people stabbing us in the back. Now is their opportunity to stand firmly behind the PM as he and his team negotiate our future trading relationship: if they really care about the UK they will do all they can to strengthen our position; if they do not, then they will be shown up for what they really are – privileged elites, who do not believe in democracy, and who consider that they know better than the majority of the population.
So, we are now in the endgame, it is to be hoped that as important as Brexit is, the other aspects of normal politico-economic life can slowly return to normal. In this sense, there are a number of issues that need the urgent attention of the government:
This was never going to work, and the government should pull the plug on it immediately, and redirect the money saved elsewhere. The stated premise behind this project was to decrease the journey times between ‘The North’ and the South, ostensibly to help business. Personally, I can’t see it making much difference, and nobody seems to have explained exactly how this will be of benefit, either to businesses in the north or the south. What is more likely to happen is that if it does reduce journey times significantly, then people who work in and around London will take advantage, as it will allow them to live further away from the capital (cheaper houses), whilst at the same time continuing to work in London and commuting for the same time each day. In effect, it would increase the price of houses within commuting distance of the line and do nothing of note to help industry in the North. If Boris is serious about helping the north (and I think he is), then far better to finish off what has been started, cancel any new developments, and invest the money saved on infrastructure in the North – especially in terms of East-West links, water supply, and education provision.
2) Huawei and Broadband
Whether this Chinese supplier is cheaper or nor is irrelevant; inviting a state-controlled industry into the most sensitive and secret aspects of our government and national security, cannot be considered as anything but sheer folly. Whilst it was not Boris who made the initial suggestions, as PM he should now kill any further talk of this stone dead. Whether a company is state-owned or not in China is irrelevant: all are State-controlled in the sense that they must comply with any request made by the Chinese government – and this might well include the provision of information relating to IT systems that Huawei has provided for foreign governments. If, as the Huawei claims, it is truly independent from censorship by the Chinese government, then let it prove this by opening up the internet in China to allow citizens access to Google (currently banned), and to give the population unfettered access to independent history sites dealing with topics such the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the independent state of Taiwan,Chinese links with North Korea, and the extent of famine-induced deaths under the regime of Mao Tse Dung. I await the company’s response with interest!
3) Fishing Rights
I have seen reports that the French will insist on retaining fishing rights in UK waters for anything up to twenty-five years! No…no…no. If they want our fish, then by all means let them purchase it from our fishermen who need a boost, having suffered the idiocy of the European Fisheries Policy for many years now. Our fishing fleets needs help, to protect those that remain, and to encourage new blood to enter the sector.
4) Increase Military Expenditure
Our Armed Forces are at an all-time low, with a huge reduction in the size of the standing Army, the Royal Navy understrength and probably at its weakest since just prior to the Falklands War; and all this at a time when Russian incursions into British waters are increasing in frequency. If we are going to have to defend our fishing grounds from what will be illegal fishing by EU trawlers, then we will have to radically increase the number of our Fisheries Protection vessels – which would also be of great use in intercepting illegal immigrants trying to cross the Channel.Similarly, the RAF needs a boost if it to provide a credible deterrent to the Russian Air Force, and to retain the ability to deliver ground forces anywhere in the world at relatively short notice.
5) Agricultural Development
Whatever the eventual outcome of our trade talks, there is no reason why the country should not become more self-sufficient in terms of agriculture. Farmers constantly complain that they do not get a fair price for their produce, and yet we are importing commodities such as milk, eggs, cheese, meat from the EU, whose farmers are heavily-subsidised and can undercut UK producers on price. At its most simple (and most things never are), why are we not considering a form of import-substitution? This would mean that those agricultural products that can be produced here will be produced and at the expense of imports. To give one very simple example: we have the best apples in the world, and our cyder producers are second to none. Why then, do we import inferior quality cyder from Ireland and Belgium? Similarly, whilst the EU produces hundreds of excellent wines, those imported from Argentina, Chile, California, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa are very bit as good. EU wine producers should beware that if the British get a taste for these ‘new world’ wines, then sales of the over-priced French wines are likely to suffer in future if we are forced to operate under WTO trading rules.
When UK consumers want non-seasonal vegetables, the supermarkets import them, using up our foreign exchange and increasing ‘food-miles’ and throw-away plastic wrapping. We could do as the Dutch do, and grow such vegetables in greenhouse (or equivalent), which would then increase opportunities for our growers, whilst at the same time making foreign competition less attractive. There is much concern nowadays over the need to be certain where our food comes from; adopting such an approach might help consumers to choose suppliers that are located only a few miles away from them.
No talk of public expenditure would be complete without mention of the NHS – the country’s largest employer. What I have to say, however, may not please everyone, as it is contrary to the current thinking, which appears to be “Spend, spend, spend!” Due to chronic medical conditions, I have considerable personal experience of our hospitals, and can say, based on my observations, it is not more money that the NHS needs, but better and streamlined management. Let me give you but one example: I had an appointment with a Consultant, and once the meeting was concluded, he said that they would get in touch to arrange the next appointment. As he had his computer diary open, and as I also had my diary with me, I suggested that we decide on a mutually-convenient time there and then. This seemed to take him aback, and he said that whilst it was a good idea, the NHS did not do things that way. Instead, he had to pass my details onto the people who make the appointments. They in turn had to check his diary to see his availability, and then write to me informing me of the date and time of my next appointment. As I am in full-time employment, and undertake extensive foreign travel, I cannot always make these appointments; I then have to contact the hospital, inform them of this, and suggest another date/time. Sometimes the people concerned will change the appointment over the ‘phone, other times they say they cannot give me a time at which I know I will be free, but they will resend my appointment. As I have had no input over the cession of this new date, that too might be impossible, and so the game of postal tennis continues. The net result is unnecessary bureaucracy, which increases costs (two letters instead of one), increases in staffing costs (those who make the appointments), and increases the frustration felt by patients. No wonder there are so many missed appointments per year – added to which is the practice by some consultants of scheduling three or four appointment at exactly the same time/date to see the same consultant. I once asked why this happened, as no consultant can see three people at the same time for a private consultancy. I was told that it was done as so many patients miss their appointments! QED!
Carpe diem Boris, carpe diem!
Dr Jonathan Swift is a Senior Lecturer in International Business & Marketing at Salford Business School, the University of Salford, Manchester. He teaches on the Postgraduate programmes at the Business School, is the Programme Leader for the MSC in International Business, and leads the overseas residential study week. He has taught at the Manchester Business School, on the Executive MBA programme, and has been involved in socio-linguistic pre-departure training for personnel from major companies who were to go to Latin America to take up positions there. He has worked closely with a variety of industries. Jonathan has written a number of books: the two most recent being Brexit KBO (2018) published by Cambridge Academic, Cambridge, and Understanding Business in the Global Economy: A Multi-Level Relationship Approach (2017) Macmillan Publishers, London. He has lived and worked in a number of countries: Brazil, Colombia, Italy, and Mexico, and speaks Spanish.
This article was first published on the Bruges Group website, and is republished with permission. You may not use, copy, distribute, publish, syndicate, sub-license and transmit the whole or any part of such material in any manner and in any format and/or media without the permission of the original publishers.
Picture by UK Prime Minister via Twitter, OGL 3, Link. Picture cropped.