Pro-EU 'People's Vote' march held in London © David Cliff/SOPA

Want to kickstart Britain? Stopping Brexit isn't enough

Andrew Adonis and Will Hutton dig out the deeper causes of discontent
August 18, 2018

A common problem with arguments in favour of continued British membership of the European Union is that they often ignore the underlying causes of the Brexit vote: the disenchantment and regional disparities that made people feel they really needed a change. The biggest strength of Saving Britain, written by peer Andrew Adonis and former Observer editor Will Hutton, both fierce pro-Europeans, is that it avoids falling into this trap. It engages seriously with the underlying factors behind the referendum result and recognises that a simple reversal of the Leave decision would not be sufficient to solve Britain’s current woes.

As you might expect, Adonis and Hutton believe that departure from Europe is folly, and they painstakingly take apart the arguments for exit. Trading benefits will be illusory; our clout on the world stage diminished. Crucially, more power concentrated in Westminster will not translate into more power for deprived British regions.

Simply remaining is not enough though; radical reform is needed on education, infrastructure and the world of work. In fact the whole British economy needs restructuring to give ordinary people more of a stake. The programme offered by Adonis and Hutton is immensely wide-ranging, with devolution and immigration also given serious attention.

The sheer breadth of the subject material, coupled with the small space allowed for it—the book is 200 pages—makes it feel a little breathless. But the enthusiasm is infectious. In fact it feels rather like a manifesto for the rumoured new pro-EU political party.

Adonis and Hutton propose a new “Great Charter”—something like a 21st-century Magna Carta—to kickstart a new era of British renewal. Whether you agree with that prescription or not, this is certainly a book which engages with the big issues of our time. And on the biggest of all—Europe—it is thoroughly convincing.

Saving Britain: How We Must Change to Prosper in Europe by Andrew Adonis and Will Hutton (Abacus, £8.99)