Brexit Weekly: 5 Things

High Priest of Fear Carney

It’s been a good week for Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, who has secured his job with the Chancellor extending his term through to 2020. How did the pair of economic heavyweights celebrate? By sitting down with the Cabinet and delivering a three-and-a-half-hour blow by blow account of what the UK’s economy would look like in the event of a ‘no-deal Brexit’.

Unsurprisingly, the banker who was referred to as the “high priest of Project Fear” by Chair of the European Research Group Jacob Rees-Mogg, and the pro-remain Chancellor didn’t paint a rosy picture of what the future might hold.

Leaked information about the contents of the highly confidential meeting – it appears as though every news outlet in the UK had an inside source present at the meeting – report that in the event of economic adversity, the bank wouldn’t be able to cut interest rates to mitigate the damage as they did after the 2016 EU Referendum, and that house prices could fall as much as 35% over three years, with mortgage rates rising.

The assessment is likely to further inflame views of the high priest by some of his parish.

Gove Glams Up Government Department

Defra published its much-anticipated Agriculture Bill this week, outlining the post-Brexit policy of one of the departments most impacted by UK’s departure from the EU. With new-found freedom, Defra Secretary Michael Gove has given the Department a makeover so good it’s gone from the least to the most glamorous department in Whitehall.

The Department is arguably the most positive about Brexit, setting out in the Bill how it hopes to redefine British agriculture policy after the sector’s membership in the EU’s much-criticised Common Agricultural Policy. It is proudly presenting itself as a leader of the conversation on environmental sustainability, having capitalised on public support for reducing single-use plastic consumption, and for embracing the potential of technology. The Bill commits to financially rewarding farmers for contributing to public goods instead of the CAP’s policy of funding farmers according to land farmed which critics highlighted gave more money to wealthy landowners than to smaller, less wealthy farmers. The Bill specifically listed air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards, public access to the countryside, and measures to reduce flooding as the public goods it prioritised.

Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman criticised the Bill for its lack of consideration of nutrition and long-term food security, which is particularly pertinent considering obesity levels in the UK being considered by Government itself to be a public health crisis. The Bill also fails to implement a domestic replacement to the EU’s School Milk Scheme, setting the Conservatives up to receive their yet-again deserved ‘milk snatcher’ jibes for the second time in as many months.

End the chaos… what chaos?

Campaigner and ‘enemy of the people’, Gina Miller, has launched a new campaign called End the Chaos whose role will be to end division and anxiety over Brexit with a new fact-checking website. Launched in Dover, the heartland of Brexit the photo used to launch the campaign features Gina standing in a pale blue suit standing in heels on the very edge of the white cliffs – a peculiar choice given the campaign’s goal to reduce anxiety.

Miller said the campaign was prompted by a “total lack of clarity” over Brexit and said it was “morally and democratically right to give people as much information as possible about the implications of Brexit so they can make informed choices”. Though Brexiteers will ask what choice is there to be made, another referendum?

Never Knowingly Undermined

This week John Lewis suffered its worst financial performance in years with a 99% drop in half-year profiits and warned that margins are under pressure. Among a list of reasons for the poor performance? Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership said uncertainty in the market “in part due to ongoing Brexit negotiations” had contributed to the problem.

This sparked a war of words between the organisation’s executives and Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab who said “it’s rather easy for a business to blame Brexit and the politicians rather than take responsibility for their own situation”. Later in the day Sir Charlie returned fire saying he “didn’t say Brexit was the reason” but “the fact is sterling is weaker, it’s more expensive to import goods… so we have to absorb that within our margin”. He also added “I’m not going to get into some sort of ding-dong with the Secretary of State” – though this would have been much more entertaining.

Should May Stay (or should she go)?

This may sound repetitive, but this week there were renewed calls for Theresa May to leave once Brexit talks are finished in March 2019. This is normally a common call from disgruntled members of the Conservative Party, of which there are many. But this week it came from one of her own, her ex-policy adviser George Freeman who said she should leave in March 2019. He sugar-coated it slightly, saying that she had been an “extraordinary” leader, but the message is still the same; out with Theresa!

He said “the shape of our future relationship must be forged by a new leader. Someone liberated from the poisonous politics of EU referendum and the shambles that has followed”. That number however, is slim and excludes some of the more traditional contenders like Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Penny Mordaunt, Sajid Javid and even Dominic Raab. Perhaps then we should be looking for those who have kept relatively quiet, but not too quiet.