The Brexit Distraction Budget – An update
The most important thing about the Budget this week is not the Chancellor’s various giveaways. Nor is it the fact that the new spending measures are laughably small in comparison to the brutal Conservative austerity cuts over the last decade. Focus only on the picture of national economic decline behind this tinkering. We are now the slowest growing economy in the G7, and are set to have historically stagnant growth for years to come.
This is the true effect of Brexit. Both the Office for Budget Responsibility on Monday and the Bank of England on Thursday argue that it has caused business investment and productivity to slump, throwing cold water into the engine room of the economy.
The real story of the Budget is that the Government is desperately trying to distract from the debilitating damage Brexit is doing to the country with its promises of money for potholes and tax cuts, and of course by continuing to spout the nonsense that there will be a ‘Brexit dividend.’
As I argue in my New European column this week, Germany’s stunning economic success since 1949 shows us that another way is possible – a way that is in fact the ‘the best of British’. It involves reforming our constitution to properly federalise political power, and taking charge of the European project rather than sitting on the side-lines. Above all, it requires the kind of strong political leadership that German chancellors like Merkel and Adenauer typified. We urgently need that kind of leadership parliament in the coming weeks to secure the first step to halting national decline – a People’s Vote.
In this week’s Independent I argue that this is not just about praying that MPs do the right thing for the country - the next step after the People’s Vote March is for everyone to make sure that their local MP knows how strong the support for a final say on Brexit is.
It also about making sure that the national momentum for a People’s Vote get fair coverage in the media. In the House of Lords this week I argued that impartial coverage must start at the top, and that the Chairman of Ofcom should resign for clearing breaching impartiality by voting with the Government against keeping the UK in the customs union.
This week I also debated the Northern Ireland Bill in the House of Lords in a marathon eight hour session. The issues at stake more than merited attending for such a long period – while they have no formal political representation, parliament must act to extend civil rights to the people of Northern Ireland by bringing its draconian abortion and equal marriage laws into line with the rest of the UK and Republic of Ireland.
My travels around the country continued this week after I returned from Scotland, and I spoke in Penzance on Thursday to another packed crowd alongside Andrew George, Lib Dem former MP for West Cornwall & the Scilly Isles, who is fighting to win the seat back from a hard Brexit Tory.
Next week will be even more of a People’s Vote odyssey: I will be speaking in Staffordshire on Monday, in London with Gavin Esler on Tuesday, in Salisbury on Wednesday, in Leeds on Thursday, then finally in Belfast on Friday morning with Dominic Grieve MP and in Manchester and Oldham in the evening. The aim is to travel as much as Liam Fox, but to embolden rather than diminish our national stature along the way.
Ofcom debate link:
Ireland debate link: