Roderick Crawford works on conflict resolution in countries such as Yemen, South Sudan and Iraq, and on Brexit-related matters. He is a former editor of Parliamentary Brief.
Brexit means Brexit, said Theresa May. She was right – but only in part. Under Boris Johnson, Brexit means much more than ‘getting it done’; it offers the opportunity as well as the necessity for the economic and social transformation of the UK itself, and thus of government too.
So much of what makes the UK tick was caught up in and by the EU – whether that was booming, coasting along or withering on the vine – that to simply ‘do Brexit’ is not enough. To make a success of Brexit requires the transformation of the UK: there can be no more business as normal: that was the case even before Covid-19 came along. For that, success is needed right across economic and social policy, not just trade policy.
Post-Brexit, the UK needs to address the problem in the housing market, because it’s a key contributor to economic prosperity, social stability and individual and family wellbeing. The house-building industry and the housing market need radical reshaping; the industry needs new entrants, new building opportunities, innovative building that delivers significant productivity gains – and all on a scale not seen for generations.
For that, we need a government that will change the current closed market into an open one – and make land available to new entrants and for new projects. It needs to create new incentives for landlords to move from short-term tenancy agreements to three or five year leases for existing and future tenants thus changing insecure accommodation into secure homes at the stroke of a pen.
It has been suggested that York should become the seat of the Lords or Parliament while the Palace of Westminster is refurbished and long term a government hub. For this, York needs tens of thousands of new houses and flats, along with offices and conference centres, improved infrastructure, including its own airport and better regional road and train links.
York as a permanent government hub in the North makes good sense, but it could also pull financiers and more creative and service businesses north to add value to the regional economy – including manufacturing. That would be a serious boost to the North – and a defining moment in the remaking of the UK, not just England.
New technologies, new processes, new designs, new businesses, partnerships – and new regulatory frameworks – are key to economic transformation. This formed the basis of the UK’s first industrial revolution and the subsequent industry-sector revolutions since then. Whatever keeps new entrants and innovations out of business sectors ought in principle to be removed, subject to legal and moral considerations.
Government tends to consult with the same old bodies about changes to market regulation, but most of those it consults are beneficiaries of the system as it exists or are so immersed in it that they can only see the possibility of reform of the present system, they cannot see a totally new one.
Where you need new entrants, consult with those outside the sector wanting to get in or expand, not those established firms trying to keep competition out and act accordingly. Tinkering with the regulatory frameworks isn’t enough anymore – extensive deregulation and re-regulation are both required, and in heavy doses for some sectors. That was a key element of Franklin D.Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The United Kingdom needs a foreign policy that both supports UK interests and which the public supports – one that brings the UK together; the current review needs to put these aims to the fore. We should seek to play a leading global leadership role, but with limited resources that means – at the least — focus, innovation and partnership.
As a general set of principles for the UK global aims, post-Brexit, we would do well to turn for inspiration and leadership to the Atlantic Charter, drawn up in August 1941 between Roosevelt and Winston Churchill on the warships Augusta and Prince of Wales, off Argentia, Newfoundland. Its sets out eight common principles on which they sought to base their hopes for the post-war world; it remains highly relevant today, not least because due to wartime events, the war aims of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, its full hopes were not realised.
In summary, the two nations:
- Seek no aggrandisement, territorial or other;
- Have no desire to see territorial changes not in accord with the freely expressed will of the peoples concerned;
- Respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they live and to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those forcibly deprived of them;
- Endeavour to further the enjoyment of all states, great or small, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;
- To bring about the fullest co-operation between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labour standards, economic advancement and social security;
- They hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;
- Such a peace should enable all men and women to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance;
- They believe that all the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force.
Today we would want to add in a few more key principles — addressing climate change would of course be amongst them.
These principles could serve the UK well as a foundation for what it hopes for the world and its role in it; it could form the basis for future partnerships across the globe and guide its work through international bodies like the WTO or as it seeks to bring stability to the global order in a time marked by great change and challenges.
As we enter the next rounds of negotiations with the EU, it is as well to remember that any agreement we reach should support and not restrain the broader aims of national and state renewal for the UK and its freedom of action in foreign policy. An equitable agreement at this stage would make a positive contribution to realising UK ambitions