One of the great things about objective science is that theories get to be tested and, provided the participants have honest intentions, they publicly admit it when the experiment is shown to have failed. Clearly the government isn’t following that model of science. They are desperately trying to cling to a deeply flawed theory and asking the public to adjust their perception of reality instead of adjusting their policies to fit reality.
A failed government experiment
The evidence that their experiment has failed is pretty comprehensive. They have created a mess in Northern Ireland. They have created a shortage of workers in care homes, hospitals, farms, abattoirs, restaurants and hotels. They can’t get food transported to the shops reliably. They can’t move petrol from refineries to forecourts and are busy patronising people about panic buying whilst essential workers are stuck in queues around the country.
They have had to shell out a fortune in subsidies to an American producer of CO2 to make sure the heating stays on in gas-fired homes. And in the biggest indignity of all, they have had to break their own sacred rule and invite foreign workers back into the country as they tell us that nothing must be ruled out after spending months ruling out almost all the sensible options.
In the minds of many of the most passionate Brexit supporters these are temporary teething difficulties. They believe in their heart of hearts that before very long, British workers will have been attracted to pass cheap and cheerful HGV driving licences and we’ll be on the way to a proud future of well-paid British workers and new free trade deals secured by global Britain.
The tragic truth is that this is only the start of a slow-burn disaster. The key worry about Brexit was not that it would cause some temporary supply difficulties. The key worry that many articulated is that it would do long-term damage to our trading relationships and weaken our businesses. In that respect, our problems are only just beginning.
For many years it has been the service sector which has kept Britain’s economy afloat. A staggering 80 percent of Britain’s economy is services. It might be nice to dream of a return to the days when Britain was the leading manufacturing sector, but doing it takes large quantities of money and clear vision. You don’t secure either of those by weakening the earnings of the service sector.
Yet the deal that was signed by the EU left both financial services and the creative industries out in the cold with little prospect of any improvement. Already, business worth billions has left the country and places like Frankfurt and Paris are eying with enthusiasm the prospect of peeling off further income from a weakened British economy.
It is bad enough for those British businesses that sell abroad to have to cope with extra paperwork, new computer systems, extra costs and long time delays which frustrate and alienate customers they can ill afford to lose. Now they also have to cope with a government that has brought inflation back into the economy.
Damaging inflation is returning to the UK
It is one of the great ironies of our time, that a Conservative government that claims to have learned its politics at the feet of Margaret Thatcher appears to have forgotten how much damage inflation can cause, and how hard it can be to drive it out of an economy. When wages go up for lorry drivers, costs go up throughout the economy. When national insurance payments wipe out cost of living rises, people press for larger pay rises or endure in work poverty. When there aren’t enough people to staff a pub or a restaurant, the quickest solution is to try to poach them from rivals and pass on the costs to customers.
Britain’s rate of inflation rose to 3 percent in August. Fuel and transport prices are now pressing that rate upwards. We are at severe risk of going back to the days of a dangerous wage price spiral. It is entirely possible for a country with a shortage of trained workers to experience heavy unemployment at exactly the same time as it encounters severe inflation. Just ask anyone who lived through the 1970s.
Forward thinking debate vs backward thinking nostalgia
What should have been happening in the UK for the past ten years was a lively debate about how we modernised our economy and how we could put ourselves at the forefront of the new era of technology and business, which has to come as we enter an economy without mass use of fossil fuels and plastics. We needed to construct a forward-looking plan about what to invest in and how to utilise our inventive skills to create an economy that is truly sustainable socially, economically and ecologically.
Instead of engaging in that debate and taking urgent action, we have spent ten years engaging in a sterile discussion about how we could use Brexit to go back to a future that never existed. Nostalgia and nationalist fantasies have taken the place of facing up to the realities of a global economy, a global society and a global ecology. All the energy in the nation has been sucked dry by the exhausting task of battling against fake news claims that the way to a bright new future was to ditch our working relationships with our closest neighbours.
When dreams go sour, some become so desperate to retain the dream that they ignore all evidence of the harm that has come from pursuing it and merely redouble their efforts. Others try and wake up and see the real world more clearly.
We need to get rid of this inept government before it leads us even further into disaster in pursuit of its daft theories.