As the nation gears up for “all Brexit all the time” over the next 18 months, it is worth pausing to consider the potential ramifications of a single issue dominating the political agenda.
Having failed to secure a mandate for her manifesto and domestic platform, Theresa May has fallen back on pushing through Brexit, which already secured its mandate through a UK-wide referendum.
This is not a wholly unreasonable stance for a weakened government to take, but as the Queen’s Speech highlighted several weeks back, Brexit is not just a prioritised issue, but seemingly the only item seriously on the agenda for the foreseeable future.
As such, the Conservative party is pushing some of their most market-oriented MPs towards the negotiations. Again, this seems reasonable enough, as this monumental moment in British history should be shaped by the best people available.
But while many focus their attention on Brussels, the domestic debates rage on at home – and it is no secret that the Conservatives are losing those battles to the Labour party.
This week alone has illustrated how bread-and-butter economic issues are becoming infected and watered down by socialist efforts.
There are reports of Tory ministers petitioning chancellor Philip Hammond to “put austerity on ice” until the UK has left the EU. (Though when you consider that spending in real terms was only cut 0.5 per cent per year under David Cameron’s leadership, one could rightfully ask if austerity was ever really tried.)
Such conversations from Tory ministers play right into Labour’s rhetoric – that the UK can afford to keep borrowing without repercussions – and totally ignores the ethical question of burdening future generations with the bills we’re racking up today.
Moreover, deeply regressive policies are finding their way back to popular status, with very little push back. That Labour has been able to get away with linking the abolition of tuition fees to “fairness” is shameful; expecting workers on the minimum wage to subsidise students attending Oxbridge – whose career prospects are likely to earn them a much higher salary in the future – is anything but fair.
I don’t know where the Conservatives have been on the issue (probably putting out the mini-fire Vince Cable sparked on the Andrew Marr Show when he suggested Brexit may not happen), but tuition fees are now being reported on as if a rollback is on the cards.
Leaving the EU, especially through a hard Brexit, is going to allow the UK to legislate in much more radical ways, and may result either in more liberalisation of the market or much heavier state intervention.
The ability to go further in one direction or another is not a reason to stop pursuing sovereignty, but it requires us to be far more aware of the philosophical shifts that have come to light since the 2017 General Election.
What if post-Brexit Britain, engineered by free-marketeers, is handed over to a Prime Minister Corbyn? His treatment of globalism, market dynamism and capitalism in a post-Brexit era will be staunchly different to what the negotiators had in mind.
This possibility is all too real; indeed, the only way to ensure a successful Brexit is to re-prioritise making the domestic arguments back at home.