Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Changing direction is better than mitigation

Before and after the EU referendum, the Brexiteers told us repeatedly that we held all the cards and that the EU would be beating our door down to give them a good deal so that they could continue to sell their cars, cheese and prosecco.  The German carmakers in particular, so they told us, would lobby their government to ensure that they gave the UK a really good deal.  That last part has almost turned out to be true.  The German carmakers are indeed lobbying government strongly to avoid a no-deal Brexit, and who could blame them?  The problem is that they’re rather cleverer than the Brexiteers assumed, and they’ve worked out that the problem lies not in Berlin or Brussels, but in London.  Instead of the predicted lobbying of Merkel, there’s the much more logical lobbying of Johnson.  Who’d have thought it?
Although the government still tells us how wonderful Brexit will be, with or without a deal, they are now making preparations to bail out UK companies likely to be affected, by setting aside large sums of cash.  It is, at least, a step forward from the approach taken by Jeremy Hunt during the leadership campaign, when he said that he would be willing to tell companies bankrupted by Brexit that their sacrifice was worth it.  That was a rather different way of acknowledging the problems likely to be caused.  But just how much does it have to cost before they start asking whether the problem is really with mitigating the effects of the policy or whether the policy itself might be the problem?  Has there ever been a government so convinced that the direction it is following is harmful that it has had to allocate many billions of pounds in advance to mitigate its effects?

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