BUDGET EXPOSES BREXIT MADNESS

 

 

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BREXIT WOES.

In his Budget the Chancellor set aside three billion pounds more for the mounting cost of Brexit. Three billion pounds that could have been spent on the NHS (as promised by the Leavers) being put aside for more lawyers and civil servants to deal with the complexity of leaving. Being put aside to build huge car parks at Dover to cope with the hundreds of lorries held up by customs controls. And let us not forget the £40bn exit bill.

But Brexit is hitting us in a far more serious and widespread way. Look at the woeful forecasts for growth and productivity. It is true that these problems pre-date the EU Referendum, but I suggest the dramatic worsening of the forecasts are related to the uncertainties of Brexit and the perception that the UK is cutting itself adrift from the EU, many of whose members are in the Eurozone where the currency has strengthened considerably in the last year.

It is almost too late for the British people to wake up and turn against Brexit. The warnings are there for anyone who wants to see. This week the European Banking Authority and European Medicines Agency were relocated out of the UK. The latter is the most serious and will be a blow to our pharmaceutical industry quite apart from the fact that we will need to create our own expensive drug regulation body. The government should have faced far more criticism for this. They thought the future of these agencies would be part of Brexit bargaining. The arrogance! The ignorance! It was never going to be possible to keep EU bodies like these in a UK outside the EU.

Oh! but we will be playing on the global stage in the future say the Leavers. Is that the stage where the UK has just lost its place on the International Court of Justice?

PHIL SAVES THE DAY.

As I said last week, I respect the Chancellor. In a Cabinet of misfits his calm integrity stands out. After the Budget perhaps all the hysteria of him getting sacked and Theresa not surviving till Christmas will calm down.

This lot are in it for the long run. Locked into the messy Brexit process and tinkering with a weak economy, but still there. After all, where is the threat. Tory Remainer rebels probably lack the courage to torpedo Brexit and the government can always on Labour MPs like Frank Field and Kate Hoey to come to their aid. Meanwhile Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell struggles to convince us that Labour’s programme could be paid for without hugely adding to the National Debt. It pains me to say it, but the Lib Dems under Vince Cable seem to be fading away just when we need a strong party for Europe.

The Chancellor took some action on the immediate issues facing the country. Housing, Universal Benefit and the NHS but he is locked into Tory ideology by not sanctioning local councils to undertake a massive programme of house building. He is also averse to general tax increases, but why? A cross party panel of voters in Bury voted unanimously for such a move on Newsnight after the Chancellor had sat down.

Thank heavens the Chancellor has stuck with the £85,000 limit on VAT, but for how long will micro businesses be spared the bureaucracy of quarterly accounting. The moves on business rates have been generally welcomed but three-year reviews may be a mixed blessing, as will stamp duty relief for first time buyers. Will youngsters benefit or will house prices just rise. Council house building is the answer.

It now seems highly unlikely the Chancellor will be sacked now that he is “Eeyore No More” according to the Mail. So, the government is set to stagger on as the darkening days bring the reality of the consequences of Brexit ever closer.

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BREXIT CONSEQUENCES BEGIN TO BITE.

 

BOTH BREXITEERS SHOULD BE OUT OF THE CABINET.

A government weakened by scandal and divided over its approach to Europe continues with its ill-starred attempt to leave the European Union.

One leading Brexiteer Cabinet Minister Priti Patel has resigned, but another, Boris Johnson is still in place despite risking extending the detention of a British national in Iran.

Immigrant workers, vital to our caring services, are staying away, jobs are going at British Aerospace in Lancashire and Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port. Both industries rely on the easy movement of parts across borders. Thousands of lawyers and civil servants are being taken on to deal with the whole miserable negative exercise of Brexit. (No doubt their wages will be coming out of the £350m a week that was promised for the NHS.) The port of Dover is making plans for the huge congestion that will build up after March 2019.

So how is all this affecting the heart of the Northern Powerhouse? What is the economic outlook in Greater Manchester as the Budget approaches? I’ve been testing economic opinion which indicates that the crash that was forecast immediately after the EU referendum didn’t happen because of a credit boom and the growth of car leasing. It is felt that is now coming to an end as inflation and now the rise in interest rates kicks in. There is a fall in business confidence amidst the chronic Brexit uncertainty with a demand that the 2019-21 transitional agreement be broadly in line with the final agreement.

Northern economists believe we are looking at a growth rate of 1.5% not 2.5% that was previously hoped for. Looking further into the future we need to prepare for automation, robotics and paying more for UK workers as immigration falls.

In Greater Manchester next year jobs growth is expected to be flat. Employment in retail and financial services will be weak. Mike Blackburn, boss of the Local Enterprise Partnership, is worried that ministers don’t realise the impact Brexit will have on an area which exports 58% of its goods to the EU compared to a national average of 42%. He wants powers returned from the EU devolved to the North.

The Chancellor will be under severe pressure in the Budget to do more on housing. Steve Rumbelow, CEO of Rochdale Council, wants a major programme of council house building. He points out that permission for 50,000 houses in Greater Manchester are not being exercised.

Joanne Roney has had a quiet start since succeeding Sir Howard Bernstein as CEO of Manchester Council. She has indicated her priority is people rather than infrastructure development which characterised her predecessor’s tenure. She identified poor school starts for a large section of Manchester pupils fed into poor GCSE performance leaving colleges to teach Level 2 skills.

Eamonn Boylan is charged with looking at the picture across Greater Manchester as CEO of the Combined Authority. The spatial strategy which deals with the use of green belt and brownfield land is being rewritten after running into opposition from Mayor Burnham, is being rewritten.

Boylan points out the devolution deal is much more about powers than giving the city region money. Promises over devolving power over adult skills had still not been delivered. Local politicians and officers had many bright ideas about what could be done locally. For instance, there was an abundance of advice on how to get to university but very little on taking up vocational courses.

So that’s a sample of the thinking of people charged with putting the concept of the Northern Powerhouse into reality. But they are handicapped by the shadow of Brexit. Let’s hope for a substantial change in popular opinion that would allow Labour to oppose our leaving the EU and we could have an Exit to Brexit.

Follow me @JimHancockUK