The Prime Minister’s lack of creativity, courage and authority is slowly killing off Brexit.
According to the polls, support for leaving the European Union slid throughout 2017, with a clear plurality of Britons believing Brexit was the wrong decision by the end of the year.
This trend – along with the corresponding fall in real wages – has provided impetus to the zombie Remain campaign. Remorseful voters, they claim, are slowly coming to terms with the economic realities of Brexit.
For what it’s worth, the referendum result is indeed the immediate cause of the current squeeze: the languishing pound has pushed up the price of imports, with wages falling behind the resulting inflation. However, a competent, fiscally responsible leader could easily offset this problem.
Let’s look at a topical example. Earlier this month, train fares rose by an average of 3.4%, further picking the pockets of UK rail travellers. The Government’s response was, as usual, hopelessly inadequate. “The reality is that someone has to pay and it’s either the taxpayer or the users of the system,” quipped Tory MP Martin Vickers.
Fake news. Back in 2013, the Institute of Economic Affairs, a free market think tank, published a report calling for the introduction of high-density, ‘economy class’ train carriages. According to the study, the initiative would see fares slashed by up to 20%, without the need to spend on new infrastructure.
The IEA, along with the wider libertarian movement, once held sway over the Conservative Party. Indeed, Lady Thatcher, whilst speaking at an IEA event in 1987, praised its visionary calls for privatisation, deregulation and consumer choice.
Recently, Thatcher’s own creation, the Centre for Policy Studies, has been making similar pleas. Through its CapX publication, the CPS has continuously urged the Government to solve the cost of living crisis by implementing free market reforms.
These reforms are further trumpeted by the Taxpayers Alliance, another Tory-linked group. Last year, a TPA paper highlighted regulations that are both inflationary and – by European standards – excessive. For instance: the cost of childcare would tumble if the child to adult ratio requirements were lowered; and house prices would quickly fall if planning restraints – namely the Greenbelt – were loosened.
Theresa May’s Government, however, has chosen not to listen. And as voters are pushed into pauperdom, anti-Brexit sentiment is intensifying.
The issue with May is that she has neither the imagination nor belief in markets to implement the required changes. She has denounced the “libertarian right” on a number of occasions; her response to the housing crisis at last year’s party conference was statist lilliputian; and as this month’s Cabinet ‘reshuffle’ shows, her political capital is spent.
Hoary platitudes like the Government’s “long-term economic plan” and “industrial strategy” are scant consolation to voters feeling the pinch. And besides, the benefits of these schemes – should there be any – will be too late to save Brexit. The evidence clearly presents a need for short-term radical change, but with Maybot at the helm, its arrival is not forthcoming.