Yes, I voted Remain, so there are some newspapers and politicians who believe I have no right to take part on the rather muddled debate about Theresa May’s famous syllogism – Brexit means Brexit.
It isn’t even true the other way around. Because there are actually two classes of Brexit, two different routes, two different objectives, and I don’t mean hard or soft.
I am anyway coming around to the view that any Brexit is likely to be pretty hard. It is politically unacceptable to negotiate ourselves back into the single market, and pay for the privilege, with no rights over the rules. In fact, that is precisely why – after a lot of agonising, and more than Lib Dems are supposed to have done – I voted Remain.
No, once we accept all that and realise that the UK needs to remake its economic destiny, there are two possible routes – there is Brexit For The Rich and Brexit For The Entrepreneurs.
There are the two options in stark reality and there are two hidden traditions and two philosophies which lie behind them. The trouble is that, not only does the government not understand the two options, but Whitehall does not seem to see that – in many areas – they actually conflict.
Brexit For The Rich is Whitehall’s default position, though it flies in the face of Theresa-nomics (“for the many, not the few”). It embraces trickle down economics, for which there is no evidence and no justification – it is just that all our assumptions, institutions and measurement systems still assume that it works. It is the idea that, if you give privileges to the biggest companies in the world, we will all feel the benefits. It is the idea – which also contradicts the direction of the world – that big centralised systems work best. It is a decision to concrete over the nation in a vain idea that it will make us richer.
See my intemperate blog about the prevailing assumptions of trickle down just published by the RSA. https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2016/10/goodbye-banks-goodbye-inclusive-growth
Brexit For The Entrepreneurs assumes instead that our future prosperity will come, not from encouraging a dwindling number of behemoths to invest, but by challenging them in every town and city in the UK. It is an idea based, not on foreign wealth, but on homegrown imagination, creativity and enterprise. It is based, not on a few oligopolistic monsters deigning to invest, but on hundreds of thousands of imaginations set free to work.
Brexit might enable either, but not both. One way leads to long negotiations over free trade deals which are actually about investors rights, IP and secret investor dispute courts. The other way leads to new institutions, local banks, creativity is schools, and new kind of enterprise support.
I know which one I want. Unfortunately, the government seems to have adopted a kneejerk assumption that they are backing Brexit for The Rich. That explains the bizarre decision to back Hinkley Point at vast expense when using the resources to invest in local generation would have been cheaper and more effective.
It explains the painfully hopeless decision to demolish part of Middlesex to make way for a third runway at Heathrow, to cater for a dwindling number of business flyers – again, entirely for symbolic reasons.
It explains the tyrannical decision to ride roughshod over the people of Lancashire who want to defend their homes from fracking.
All three decisions undermine the very roots of the other kind of Brexit – people’s pride in their homes and the places they live.
Both Brexits mean new kinds of Britain. One will lead to wider prosperity, the other to a kind of dependent slavery.