“SO much to do, so little time.” This famous quotation is the reality facing the new Prime Minister, which if the opinion polls are to be believed is going to be Boris Johnson. What will he need to do in the time available?
The first task is dealing with Brexit and ensuring we leave on October 31. Failure to do so would damage the Conservative Party and make it unelectable.
But, more seriously, it would harm the country not only by leaving us humiliated and weak but by denying us the opportunity of future prosperity outside the EU. As it would also increase the risk of allowing Jeremy Corbyn to become PM, the danger for the UK is severe.
It is widely accepted it would be sensible to leave with an agreement and that will be the right ambition for a Johnson government.
The current withdrawal agreement is defunct and there can be no question of any iteration of the Irish Backstop. This proposal would have left the UK subject to EU laws and regulations for an indeterminate period — which would be the epitome of a vassal state.
Instead, the aim should be for a free trade agreement, a generous settlement of citizens’ rights and the payment of such debts as we genuinely owe but with an absolute cap.
If the EU continues with its self-imposed insistence that it will not discuss trade until after we have left, then an interim agreement drawing on the principles of the GATT Article 24 could be necessary.
To achieve such an agreement the Government must be tougher than its predecessor — which means preparing for No Deal at full pelt and reassuring sectors of the economy that could be hit that the £39billion saved by not making a payment to the EU would be used to help them.
The sheep farmers and fishermen who could face high tariffs, for example, might need some assistance as would EU industries if we responded in kind. The nearly £100billion trade deficit we have with the EU means a number of European regions are dependent on their trade with us.
We could use tariffs tactically to squeeze the most exposed EU industries while lowering barriers to the rest of the world.
The World Trade Organisation requires that each country must be treated alike, so if the current tariff on wine were reduced it would help non-EU countries which face high imposts but affect EU ones who currently pay zero.
Roman military strategist Vegetius said: “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Likewise, if you want an agreement, prepare for no agreement.
Yet policy must evolve beyond Brexit. This may well start with trade negotiations with well- disposed countries. There must be a good opportunity to come to an agreement with Australia and the US.
This is about global prosperity and economic advancement and it boosts living standards at home. Some of the most highly protected areas in the EU are food, clothing and footwear which hit the least well-off the most. An outward looking, internationalist approach will have beneficial consequences at home.
Similarly immigration policy must not be about shutting the door but deciding what talents and skills we need and then being welcoming to those people. It is about taking back control. On top of this, there is so much domestic action to be taken.
Housing is a particular difficulty with first-time buyers unable to get on the bottom rung and high stamp duty preventing the elderly from stepping down a rung or two. Social care is a worry and an unsupportable burden to many — especially those who have to cope with dementia. The Green Paper on this subject has been gathering dust for months on end.
Crime is rising and more police are needed. Boris has to negotiate a deal by really meaning No Deal. He must engage with the world and cope with a housing crisis, an unfair social care muddle and rising crime. To do this he must peddle optimism as if he were a steroid-boosted cyclist trying to win the Tour de France.
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