BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN
I meet lots of Brexiteers and I meet lots of Remainers. I occasionally meet the odd remoaner but they are a dying breed, except on Twitter. Like those who grumbled about German reunification in 1990, they are a group that no doubt will eventually fade away as economic triumphs repeatedly quell their sympathisers’ fears.
Behind the Brexit hubbub – in the real world – there are two questions being ever more asked. First, where do we find an opposition for the Tories from – now that Labour has been skewed apart by Corbyn, McCluskey and Lansmann and made forever unelectable by their anti-Semitic far-left fringe? Also, should an independent, global Britain become a Switzerland or an America?
Here I shall deal with the second question, as the first – four years out from a fixed term parliament General Election – is impossible to answer right now.
Why Switzerland or America? Why not Dubai or Chile or a unique Brexit Britain?
If you look at Western democracies, they are, with two notable exceptions, roughly all the same: high tax (c. 40% of GDP), high regulation and increasingly high state intervention. The two exceptions to the tax rule (c. 40% of GDP) are the USA and Switzerland, which each take about 26% of GDP in tax. But they could not be more different. The USA is a low tax, low wage economy – Switzerland is low tax, high wage. The Swiss are roughly twice as rich as the Brits.
The dividing lines I tend to notice in discussions about post-Brexit Britain result in different camps around these three dividing lines: right versus left, free market versus intervention, minimal state versus oversized state (not that much different from the present).
The right-wing, free marketeers in Britain represent probably only about 30% (with another 30% small c conservative so not having fixed views on economics) and about 30% are pre-Corbyn Labour (social democrat left/centrist) while the remaining 10% are extremists (Corbynites, SNP, anarchists, Islamist nuts, anti-capitalists, Greens etc).
The danger of moving to a US-style economic model (which I personally feel more drawn to by gut as a fan of anything Anglo Saxon) is that many of the people who voted for Brexit to be free and richer as Brits would find themselves with the same lot – low incomes and low prospects for the future.
If Britain were to have a policy of moving towards a Swiss-style economy (which would have to be a plan over more than a mere decade), that could unite the right, the small c conservatives and the decent centrist Labour crowd – then Britain would be more content as a whole and therefore feel more united (the extremists would, of course, still be nuts). The main difficultly in achieving such a transformation is that it would take a long time to move from high tax to low tax, and the voters would have to be convinced that wages would rise as government spending fell.
Let’s be clear here – I am not referring to replicating Switzerland’s niche economic relationship with Europe, its neutrality, nor its penchant for regular referenda on obtuse decisions, nor its cuckoo clock-making abilities. I am merely referring to its economic balance, which Britain could at least replicate, if not better, given the requisite time. A long term aim of self-reliance based on higher wages with reduced state intervention and more personal responsibility – the vast majority of Brits would be up for that. We’d get there in a completely different way to how the Swiss got there but financial services will also be key.
Once we and our foreign clients were used to British independence, once our economy had developed some serious thrust, a target could be a minimum wage at IRO £15/hr (at current price equivalence). There would obviously be a knock on in other wages and therefore costs. A key social issue that this might address is inter-generational, because one effect would be that the growing number of older people would pay more for their services, and younger people receive more – eradicating the current inter-generational gripe on which Corbyn plays.
Social scientists tell us that, despite what these socialists say, the general public is not that much bothered by inequality. The public applaud high wage footballers, wealthy pop stars, and the man next door who has just won the lottery. What matters is fairness – those crapitalist aspects of capitalism stifled and everyone given a fair chance. Fairness, not some forced, hideous socialist equality.
A pre-requisite for this Britzerland economy to work is the correct immigration control, or else the higher minimum wage will fuel economic migrants. We would need to have a raft of parallel policies, including some health fees (a fiver for a GP appointment would be a good start) for those who can afford them to bring the NHS up to speed and let’s start actually charging visitors. Inspire philanthrocapitalism and effective charity, alongside welfare, to help our weakest citizens.
If successful, one of the big bonuses would be we’d kill dead the ideological socialism that has held us back in Britain for so long. How could socialist MPs stand in front of their poor constituents (as they have done for the last century without them getting out of their poverty) and compete with increased wage structures for all? They’d look like the dinosaurs they are.
Focus would be on the economy and its trickle-down funds, not on the emotional claptrap, divisive identity politics, reverse racism and cultural relativism the worst of the current Left focuses on. What is depressing about Britain now is this Left’s daily promulgation of feelings of inferiority, which are so ingrained that they cannot conceive of themselves as individually strong and valuable, hence their desperation for collectivism.
If our society had no social problems at all, the Left (I am not including the social democrat, hard-working Left) would have to invent problems in order to provide themselves with an excuse for making a fuss.
The sooner their mouths are shut by Britain’s poor earning more and feeling freer and less governed – the opportunities for Brits away from their negative claptrap are limitless. For that to happen, Britain needs unity. In my humble opinion, Britzerland is a far better bet for that required unity than Bramerica.