TThe Brexit paradox is that for this ultra-free market project hatched by the far right to have any chance of success, it must unleash an unprecedented wave of economic and social activism, mobilization and intervention. A project conceived by Thatcherian ultras who wanted to shed the regulatory “yoke” of Brussels and sclerotic Europe can only hand over to disillusioned and abandoned people who rightly wanted a dramatic change in the status quo through a massive state-led restructuring of the the way Great Britain works. They did not vote Leave for an intensification of free market globalization and more libertarian neglect of the condition of the country beyond London. For Brexit to be a success, Britain has to become more European.
This book, which argues that Brexit requires and will provoke a major state-led British reboot, exemplifies the paradox. In large part, he was encouraging the author along with his scorching account of how Britain has decadently sold so many of its strategic assets overseas, while offering an amusing (and highly readable) account of Britain’s remaining and less important fortresses in high technology, financial services, universities, pharmaceuticals and creative industries. What we need to do, declares this Brexit convert, is to abandon the decline of the free market and instead demand that the public and private sectors seriously support our economic strengths as they have never done before. And that must be accompanied by the federalization of the country, renewing our comprehensive social contract with, for example, an innovative social insurance scheme for social care, giving the local government the autonomy to tax and borrow, supporting key institutions such as the BBC as the key. the fundamentals of creative industries and the review of everything from the way businesses are run and owned to how we organize training.
I agree with almost this entire long list of radical and liberal centrist reforms. Like Alex Brummer, my ex guardian colleague and now the much loved and respected editor of the City of Daily mailI, too, opposed the sale of the British high-tech jewel Arm to Japan’s Softbank in the months after Brexit and, like him, thought that the May and Nigel Farage government’s claim that it showed Britain was ” open to business “was a nonsensical babble. Big countries do not pawn their strategic assets to the extent that Great Britain does; Doing so reveals deep structural weaknesses. I was also appalled at the City and government’s leniency of opportunistic American offers by Unilever and AstraZeneca and delighted that they were rejected by CEOs who, more importantly, were both European citizens wanting to protect European assets. But putting so many of our ills, be it the malfunctioning state, supine institutional shareholders or the crazed housing market, directly or indirectly at the door of the EU, is pushing credulity beyond the limits.
One vignette is his comparison of the way Germany last year gave a Rolls-Royce subsidiary £ 500 million to back a hybrid power project, while the UK could only find a measly £ 18 million for support the company’s development of small modular nuclear reactors. The UK must be more ambitious, he declares. He is correct. But how is it possible that Germany, groaning under the “shackles” of the EU that supposedly impede state support and at the same time so tied to the European economy, can find so much cash and succeed in exporting to China? Perhaps the EU is not the enemy of the British company that he believes it to be.
It’s the question that inevitably comes to mind when reading the uplifting chapters, a kind of love letter to the British company, about a succession of successful British industries, companies and individuals: Stormzy, Formula One, Premier League football, financial technology, Burberry, Darktrace, AstraZeneca. and many more. All of this success was generated while we were in the EU and was partly caused by him. For example, I am well acquainted with Oxford, having been head of an Oxford university for nine years, and Brummer rightly commends his research and developments. But Oxford’s (now impossible) leadership of research projects across the EU, while launching a wave of startups with access to the European Single Market, has been integral to that success, as it is for all of our leading universities in Europe. intensive research. The university has had to create an arm in Berlin, to qualify as within the EU, to try to counter the deadly threat to its ability to continue in the same way. It is the third best option to become a full member of the EU.
Brummer deplores some of the atrocious pay rewards at the top of British companies, hardly justified by underlying performance in growth and productivity. Much of British business is not made up of the innovators he praises, but rather of quasi-monopolists who exploit his dominance of the market to extract big profits, achieve short-term equity returns, and thus extravagant bonuses. . His suggested reforms will have to go much further to address this, but these distortions are firmly made in the UK. They have nothing to do with Brussels or its alleged shackles.
But maybe he and I are right. We largely share an analysis of what is wrong and what must be done: a reboot and reboot of British capitalism and a redone social contract accompanied by the political federalization of the country. Brexit may be necessary to push Britain to develop similar and fit-for-purpose European institutions, but I seriously doubt that Johnson’s cabinet of men and women has the conviction and ability to shape such a shift. His is not the supercharged Heseltinian tradition that is now needed. However, the need will become increasingly obvious. Meanwhile, as the legendary land of marvelous trade deals and global Britain turns to the ashes of economic and political marginalization and slow growth, a Britain more at ease with its need to Europeanize – and a humble political right – will have to accept that the only viable British future is on the continent of which we are a part. Brummer’s book, The Ultimate Paradox, is part of the long road to that final destination.
• The Great British Reboot: How the UK Can Thrive in a Turbulent World by Alex Brummer is published by Yale University Press (£ 20). To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com. Shipping charges may apply
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.