Imagine if last summer you were in Theresa May’s shoes; you’d just inherited a party and country that had voted to Leave the EU, while you had (reluctantly?) voted to Remain. Setting aside your own preferences, but remembering that you have a party to hold together, what would you do?
Decisive action was needed. Leadership. Brexit must mean Brexit and we must make a success of it. But how?
How we negotiate the process I would have left to the constitutional experts. I’d not try to second guess the Supreme Court and I’d make a point of strengthening democracy and giving back power. There’s nothing to be lost in being gracious.
Guiding the nation to success would be my role. So first to identify the challenges, then find the solutions.
Challenges are still appearing, but if we’d started by asking for them to be declared we’d probably now (March 2017) be further on. They would include:
- Replacing the skills and energy of EU citizens who are currently vital to our economy. We’ll need to replace them without increasing net immigration from other areas, as that was such a key issue in the referendum. This will include NHS staff, domiciliary and care staff, farm workers, scientists and engineers, skilled tradesmen and entrepreneurs.
- While there is a freedom to reallocate EU funding to deliver UK needs, there will also need to be a transition to post Brexit UK without too much disruption. So how would UK priorities differ from EU ones? We’ll need to think about agriculture, manufacturing, research and development, social investment and more.
- On trade we’ll need to think about whether we’d be best inside or outside the Single Market – not just a knee jerk reaction but a rational assessment, considering the different impacts on different sectors. How much can trade outside the EU expand? Do we have enough people with the right skills in marketing and languages to exploit the opportunities – if they aren’t already doing so. And for key sectors, like food, do we need to become more self-sufficient?
- We’ll need to consider the masses of regulations that have come from Europe. We could start with the very few that we actually voted against, but maybe presume that the others we need to retain, unless. there is good reason to reject If we are to have closer relations with other countries than Europe, maybe we will want to align to others’ standards for procedures and equipment from aeroengines and accountancy to pesticides and workers’ rights. We need to know what the implications of change might be.
- Last, but not least, we need to consider our society. How can the families and friendships that have developed across Europe over the last 40 years (and more) be considered an asset, a help to stabilise and support our changing relationships, not a problem to be resolved?
I’m pretty sure that Theresa May has not done this exercise, as if she had, one of her top priorities should have been NHS staffing. If she’d been thinking as I’m suggesting she would not have cut bursaries for nurses just when we’ll be needing more nurses as we Brexit.
But then I usually wear more practical shoes that Theresa!