Five things we should do to prepare for Brexit

Farming © Alamy
Pay them to protect land, not produce food

It’s just a year until we finally shrug off the Brussels shackles. Here are some last-minute preparations.

It is hard to know how the day itself will play out. Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg will no doubt be letting off fireworks and organising victory parades. Nick Clegg and Tony Blair will be wearing black and organising a national day of mourning. But on 29 March 2019, one year away, we will finally have left the EU. So what should we be doing in the months that remain? Here are five ideas.

1. Brace for no deal

The hardliners in Brussels have retreated a little in the last couple of months. There is more room for compromise on both sides. Even so, we may still need to walk away. That means we have to have the infrastructure in place to cope. We will need customs officers, a plan for border controls, and regulatory agencies ready to go. It might just be a contingency. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be in place.

2. Settle on a trade policy

Do we want to be an open economy, buying what we need from the rest of the world regardless of how willing they are to open their markets to us, or do we want to impose tariffs insofar as World Trade Organisation rules allow, as the US and EU do? The row over where our passports are printed suggests there is a lot of raw emotion behind protectionism. But that needs to be defeated if the UK is to prosper – because free trade will make us richer.

3. Shut that door – or don’t

We need to decide what to do about immigration. We won’t have to keep the doors open any more. But that doesn’t mean we should shut them, even if many Leave supporters think it does. The UK can carry on with high levels of immigration and, given how much our economy depends on it, probably should. But we need to make up our minds one way or another. Many businesses, especially in struggling areas such as retailing and restaurants, now rely on a plentiful supply of cheap workers. We should let them know whether that is going to continue.

4. Plan for transition

For all the scare stories, it doesn’t make much difference to most of the economy whether we are in the EU or not. Exports only make up 13% of the economy, and less than half of that total is sold into Europe. A few sectors will be affected, however. The car industry could take a big hit if there are tariffs imposed between the EU and Britain. So could aerospace and pharmaceuticals. They are all important to the British economy. Money and help should be made available.

5. Hug a farmer

For all the flags and grand talk, the EU is in many ways still just a farm-subsidy board. The Common Agriculture Policy still consumes 40% of its budget, and dominates its tariffs and trade agreements. Once we are out, we will have control over our own agriculture for the first time in a generation. But what do we want? We should use the money available to protect the environment, prioritising areas of natural beauty. At the same time, we should import the cheapest food we can from anywhere in the world that wants to sell it to us. If our farmers can’t compete, by all means pay them to protect the land. But there is no point in paying them to produce food that isn’t economic.

Who’s getting what

Northamptonshire county council, which declared itself bankrupt last month, paid acting chief executive Damon Lawrenson more than £1,000 a day. It also forked out nearly £1m over five years to DDL Consultancy, owned by Lawrenson. He has now left “by mutual consent”.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a mixed martial arts tournament, is making a bid for a promotional multi-fight deal with boxer Anthony Joshua (pictured), which could earn the Londoner $500m and make him the richest British boxer of all time, says The Daily Telegraph.

Mark Wilson, boss of insurance giant Aviva, raked in £4.3m in pay in 2017 after enjoying a 2.5% salary hike and picking up nearly £3m in bonuses and shares. Wilson landed a total of £4.5m in 2016. The pay details come just a week after Aviva’s climbdown over its proposal to cancel £450m of preference shares (see page 16).

The former boss of Micro Focus, Chris Hsu, pocketed £8.4m just months before he was forced to resign last week. Hsu became CEO of the firm last September when it paid US technology firm Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) £6.8bn for the software division he had been running.

Nice work if you can get it

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – one of the “Big Four” accountancy firms – has been accused by the work and pensions committee of MPs of “milking the Carillion cow dry” after making £500,000 a day from its work on the liquidation of the construction group. In the first eight weeks of the liquidation, PwC charged £20.4m. The company’s fees have since come down to a weekly bill of £1.4m as the number of staff working on the liquidation has fallen. A calculation shows that PwC is now charging out its time at £12,500 per person per week, an estimate not denied by the firm, reports The Times. The company will receive the money in priority to other creditors, who are thought unlikely to recover more than a token sum from the collapsed group. PwC had previously received £21m from advising the company, the pension fund and the government before the collapse.

  • CatholicSatan

    “That means we have to have the infrastructure in place to cope.”

    BRexit wishful thinking again, I see. In Lords’ committee just a couple of weeks ago, the logistics experts (yes, yes, BRexiters don’t like experts) said it could take four years, possibly more.

    Meanwhile, the bureaucratic and stodgy EU, or at least those countries facing the UK have got on with employing thousands of Customs Officers and setting aside monies to build out infrastructure. Calais has estimated Eur750m for infrastructure and several years to cope. Whereas the UK has done practically zilch, nada, nothing, well, except from renting out a disused airfield near Dover for 12 grand per day. Money better spent on Kent’s NHS I’d have thought…

    Those experts in committee were utterly exasperated with the UK government and repeated over and over, “Can the government just get on with fixing the border problem? Please!”

    • Andrew Ian Layton

      Yep – shocking cr*p in Moneyweek for what I thought was a useful publication which ought to be seeking facts and using moderate language.

    • FriarStuck

      Is your comment intended as irony? Because it reads like the idle day dream of someone like Guy Verhofstadt, whilst his consciousness floats in an alternate reality nirvana of a Federal Europe.

      The on-going migrant crisis frankly makes a mockery of the term border control (500,000 illegal crossing for the last year of recorded data, and 2 million the year before).

      If the EU border with the UK, is going to be anything like the rest, then it will be the usual EU modus operandi, of plenty of money “set aside” for boondoggles, committee meetings, pointless bureaucracy, and very little else.

      Remoaners like to point out failures of the UK government (of which there are many and which I would be the last to deny), however, when compared with the leviathan EU bureaucracy, it’s not even in the same league, in terms of abject failure, corruption and Kafka-esque consequences.

      Related to this, I would prefer it if the remoaners would spare everyone the pro-EU propaganda press releases, and the supercilious commentary, suggesting that those who voted for Brexit “are just simple, misguided souls, that didn’t realise what they were voting for (head shake, condescending smile, eye roll)”.

      I’m afraid the failures of the EU are too spectacular to forget.

      CAP and fisheries policy are two great examples. Unless you think grain mountains, paying farmers to leave land fallow, and fisherman to destroy boats, is a good thing (if these policies had been tried once, failed, and stopped/reformed, fair enough, but the EU continues with them in the face of failure, and not just over the period months or years, but decades)?

      An honourable mention must also go to TTIP as well, a secret document, drafted in closed meetings, kept in a secure, guarded room, that could not be accessed or read by the electorate, that could only be read by EU politicians, but could not be photographed, or copied, and that formed the basis of a trade agreement between the EU and the US.

      If the EU were more competent and accountable then this would have been reflected in the voting on the referendum. Before insulting voters, politicians on the losing side of an election should consider this.

  • FriarStuck

    From the article:

    “Many businesses, especially in struggling areas such as retailing and restaurants, now rely on a plentiful supply of cheap workers. We should let them know whether that is going to continue.”

    If the government didn’t pay people so generously to do nothing, i.e. more than could earn by actually working, then I’m sure these industries could find local people to do these jobs.

  • Cynic_Rick

    “It’s just a year until we finally shrug off the Brussels shackles.”


    The way things have been recently the UK looks like becoming a vassal state of the EU for at least 2 years from March of next year; maybe indefinitely or until its shambolic leadership finally twigs that the EEA/Efta route out of the EU is by far and away the best route.

    • chris pennington

      Wow. I agree.