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.
Follow me @JimHancockUK.