The three planks of Boris-onomics

Boris Johnson, our new PM, will have to act fast to put Britain back on its feet, say Matthew Lynn.

Boris Johnson looks through binoculars © Dominic Lipinski/AFP/Getty Images

Johnson: put Brexit behindyou and look to the future
(Image credit: Boris Johnson looks through binoculars © Dominic Lipinski/AFP/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson is our new prime minister. But his cautious campaign, long on optimism but light on actual policies, doesn't give us much of a clue as to what Boris-onomics will actually look like. Yet the tasks facing him are clear. The arguments over our departure from the EU will have to be resolved before they consume him. The economy will have to be rescued from a potential recession. And he will have to come with a programme that will have popular appeal and restore the country's standing in the world. Here are the three places he should start.

1. Prepare for no-deal

2. Prepare an emergency budget

Fortunately, the public finances are back in respectable shape and the government can move quickly to pump up demand with a round of spending. The priorities? Johnson took a lot of flak for suggesting it, but the 40% tax rate genuinely does kick in at far too low a rate. It has been a long time since the basic rate was cut, but that would help tackle low pay as effectively as increasing the living wage. Specific sectors, such as cars and agriculture, are going to need help to get through leaving the EU this might be the one occasion when subsidies, so long as they are time limited, can actually be justified. All that will need to be done by the end of August.

3. Reform and simplify taxes

Business rates are killing off the high street and need to be reformed: retailing might die out, but there is no need for the government to kill it. Our corporate taxes are already low, but cutting the rate to 10% would make it the lowest in the developed world and would make the UK an attractive place to invest despite leaving the EU's single market. We should be embracing new technologies, from drones, to artificial intelligence, to lab-grown meat, so that the UK attracts investment from around the world as well as building its own technology companies. That won't happen overnight. But Johnson's instincts are to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, and he should unleash that on day one.

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After three years of obsessing about leaving the EU, the country badly needs to move on. There are bigger and more important issues to worry about than membership of a not terribly successful trade bloc. It remains to be seen whether Johnson can achieve that. But if he is to have any chance, then he needs to hit the ground running he will only have a few months to make a success of his premiership.

Matthew Lynn

Matthew Lynn is a columnist for Bloomberg, and writes weekly commentary syndicated in papers such as the Daily Telegraph, Die Welt, the Sydney Morning Herald, the South China Morning Post and the Miami Herald. He is also an associate editor of Spectator Business, and a regular contributor to The Spectator. Before that, he worked for the business section of the Sunday Times for ten years. 

He has written books on finance and financial topics, including Bust: Greece, The Euro and The Sovereign Debt Crisis and The Long Depression: The Slump of 2008 to 2031. Matthew is also the author of the Death Force series of military thrillers and the founder of Lume Books, an independent publisher.