Late Frost in Brexit Britain

Another sharp take on the resignation of Lord Frost – Boris Johnson’s chief European sherpa – from the folk at Eurointelligence.

Wonk-in-chief Wolfgang Munchau argues Lord Frost was one of the few (perhaps the only one?) of Boris’s close advisers that really understood the needs of a post-Brexit strategy:

“What Brexit requires, first and foremost, is a post-Brexit economic model.”

What model?

Not fortress UK; not global-excellence-in-widgets Britain; not Singapore-on-Thames; almost certainly not French-style strategic tech (anyone heard of Mintel?).  

“Of all post-Brexit visions I have heard, the high-tech entrepreneurial version is the only one that ever made sense to me.”

The UK leads European countries in start ups and tech investment by a significant margin.  Most would say that it has the better business environment for innovation, and the best legal system under which to operate.  

But, says Munchau:

“ … the UK would waste this endowment if it failed to decouple from the EU’s regulatory system, which has not happened yet.”

In a year politically dominated by Covid lurches; the unresponsiveness of public sector agencies; a deteriorating foreign policy environment; border insecurity; the dead end of current energy/climate policy; and gesture politics, the boring substance does appear to have been neglected.

A complaint which is not inconsistent with Lord Frost’s concerns about the drift of policy.

But in focusing on the lack of positive momentum, Munchau risks underrating the significance of what has been done.

The European regulatory supertanker is chugging steadily towards a destination likened by Munchau to a “large producers’ cartel”.  This year, the disaster triumph of collective vaccine procurement; next year further onerous measures against big tech and presumably a collective response to energy security.  Plus the never-ending pressure to transfer the financial problems of Europe’s periphery to the centre. 

Simply cutting the British vessel loose from the behemoth is of primary significance.

And while Frost and Munchau collectively bemoan its lack of direction, it’s worth asking if the drift will pull it the right way.  And perhaps even pick up a bit of speed as the post-Covid economic problems present themselves.

Munchau again:

“If I were Johnson’s political adviser – mercifully, I am not – I would tell him to focus his entire operation on this one issue: making the post-Brexit economy work. And to beg Lord Frost to come back.”

Boris’s other options for 2022 look less attractive – and much less realistic.

And Boris has previous form at begging.

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