This month’s Prospect conducts an unsparing health check on the state of trade and industry in Brexit Britainby Tom Clark / November 17, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Astronauts and explorers submit to rigorous medicals, and so—you might think—should economies before they embark on a leap into the unknown. This month’s Prospect conducts an unsparing health check on the state of trade and industry in Brexit Britain.
Let us start, as a doctor would, with general fitness. The news is not all bad. The UK is a very active patient—in the sense that jobs are plentiful—but too much of the abundant activity is of the low-exertion, pottering-in-the-garden variety. It’s not doing the strenuous stuff that can build the strength and stamina which a modern economy needs to thrive in a competitive world. For many years now, as Diane Coyle reports, the labour of Britons has yielded less than that of the long-holidays French or the long-hours Americans, and that productivity gap has been getting worse, rather than better.
Next our medic will want to home in on one organ that looks a bit bloated—namely the City. It no longer looms quite as large as it did before UK plc’s last health crisis, but it still brings in a great chunk of national income and tax revenues. In the face of Britain’s planned adventure, some senior bankers are beginning to talk openly about their plans for leaving. Nicolas Véron suggests that the loss of a tenth of City activity is inevitable, and cautions that much more substantial haemorrhaging is now a real risk.