Leftwing thinktank warns that unaddressed problems of regional under-development, economic inequality and political alienation will create more crises like Brexit
AS THERESA MAY finds herself trapped by the contradictions of her Brexit Chequers plan, a new report warns that endemic problems of ‘dysfunctional’ Britain are not being addressed.
Economic inequality, regional and national under-development within the UK and deep alienation from political institutions are among the key drivers of the Brexit vote and political instability cited in the report titled ‘The Causes and Cures of Brexit’, produced by the leftwing thinktank Compass.
The report, commissioned by Open Society Foundations and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, contains examinations of many of the issues that drive disenchantment with the political establishment by leading politicians, theorists and journalists.
Neal Lawson, chair of Compass said: “The predominant focus of the nation over the coming months will undoubtedly be on the how and whether of Brexit.
“Competing forces will try and push it through or stop it. But some attention has to be focused on why the vote went the way it did, and what needs to be done to address the underlying concerns of those who voted Leave.
“Leaving the EU will not in itself address all the causes of the referendum result, and if for any reason Brexit does not take place there will be even more reason to tackle the reasons for the vote.”
He added: “If we don’t get these things right then in all kinds of entirely predictable and unexpected consequences will come back to bite us. And if you think right now that this is the very worst mess the country could possibly be in – then think again.”
Examining the economic underpinning of public discontent, Research Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank Grace Blakeley writes in the report: “The UK is now the most regionally unequal country in Europe, measured according to economic output.
“Aggregate metrics like GDP disguise this variety and paint a portrait of uniform growth across the country. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In the period since the financial crisis, London’s economy has grown at a rate of around 3per cent per year, while the North East has grown by less than 1 per cent per year.
“All the UK’s other regions have been growing at a rate of between 1 per cent and 2 per cent, so the gap between London and the regions is continuously widening.”
Writing on why Scots voted by 62 per cent to remain in the EU, SNP MP Tommy Sheppard pointed to the ability of Scottish Nationalism to steer national sentiment away from “populist parties of the right”.
He writes: “In Scotland the Scottish National Party (SNP), an avowedly left-of-centre party, has been the beneficiary. It has provided an alternative for those disillusioned with the principal UK parties and has advocated a contemporary nationalism rooted in civil society and with a narrative about taking political control of the country in which we live.
“This has taken up much of the political displacement of the last 25 years north of the border, leaving parties like UKIP little room to operate.”
However he also concedes problems of democracy and sovereignty also provide an audience for Euroscepticism in Scotland: “A more convincing argument was that being in the EU would subvert the ability of an independent Scotland to make social and economic change on a significant scale.
“This was not a dissimilar case from the one made by some on the Labour left who claimed that the EU would prevent the implementation of their manifesto.
“These pro-Brexit voices focused on the familiar argument about sovereignty asking why, once having put power into the hands of the people, they should then allow its transfer to Brussels.”
The report also includes articles from John Trickett MP, Shadow Lord President of the Council, Caroline Lucas MP, former leader of the Green Party of England and Wales and John Harris, columnist for the Guardian.
Its suggestions for national reform include new Green industries, a citizens basic income, the introduction of a land value tax as well as overhauls of the welfare system, transport and housing.
The calls come after a study by Cardiff and Edinburgh Universities showed that support for the UK union had collapsed across all four nations within the state.
Picture courtesy of David Holt
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