Brexit is not ‘self-evidently’ in the national interest – unless you rule out the most sensible options.
There is a general expectation that political leaders at least try to take decisions in the national interest. But they also have a duty to warn people about the potential dangers of following a particular course of action even if it seems to be popular – that’s what separates a true leader from those who simply try to sense the mood, then take advantage of it to win or stay in power. In short, leaders need to lead.
New research from the respected and independent National Institute of Economic and Social Research has concluded that the UK economy is now 2.5 per cent lower than it would have been if the Brexit referendum had gone differently, partly because of investor uncertainty about what is going to happen.
And the institute also forecasts that the UK’s gross domestic product would be 3.5 per cent – or about £70 billion – lower in ten years’ time under Boris Johnson’s deal than if it remained a member of the European Union. Economic forecasting is a difficult thing to do. There are so many uncertainties that any prediction is uncertain, but that does not mean they should not be attempted. Indeed, it is the height of folly not to.
So it is particularly alarming that the Chancellor Sajid Javid has dismissed suggestions that Johnson’s deal should be assessed by the Government itself. Javid said that “my starting point is that agreeing the Withdrawal Agreement is self-evidently in our economic interest” as it would “bring an end to the damaging uncertainty and delay of the past years”. Javid has essentially closed his mind to the idea that Brexit is a bad idea that will cause serious and long-lasting damage to the UK economy. The referendum result must be followed, regardless of the consequences.
Given most people who voted for Brexit did so in the belief that it will make life in this country better, they are unlikely to thank him in the event it has the opposite effect.
And it will be no comfort if Johnson’s deal is better than what is now, hopefully, a theoretical no-deal, which the NIESR calculated would result in a 5.6 per cent fall in GDP. “It could have been worse” is not much of a post-Brexit campaign slogan.
The Prime Minister may do well in the coming election, when his fate will still largely depend on the hopes of Brexiteers. If that collides with a reality anything like the NIESR’s forecasts, Johnson may regret his choice of which crowd to follow and the nation may regret its lack of real leadership.
A fairytale ending for all
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away – but also really close because it was a magic kingdom – lived about 66 million people called Happy, Grumpy, Dopey and a whole bunch of others who refused to allow their personalities to be reduced to one of the Seven Dwarves because it was “demeaning” and they were “much more complex than that”.
Then one day, Grumpy started going on about how the “Wicked Witch of the East” had ruined everything and how the magic kingdom would be much nicer if only it could escape her clutches.
Some people, known as the Experts, pointed out that there was no such thing as witches and it was all made up, but the good people of this fairytale country, inspired by visions of a green and pleasant land, decided the Experts were all stupid and to follow Grumpy instead.
But then, on the long (so long) and perilous journey, the magic kingdom, Brexitania, arrived at a big cliff.
We have to jump, said Grumpy. Everyone jumped and it was all fine. The End.
And yes that is what happened and we didn’t change the ending like all those naughty parents do (with traditional fairytales that can be a bit too ‘grim’, according to a new survey).