Britain’s post-Brexit instability continues

David Cameron (2010-16) supported continued membership but after the 'leave vote' stepped-down. Theresa May (2016-19) could not develop a workable road-map for the exit and left the office plunging the Brexit process into further turmoil. Boris Johnson (2019-22) took the bull by the horns and emerged as the man who 'got Brexit done', however his measures could not bring the promised dividends for the British economy

Brexit has proven to be the most crucial event in modern British history. The merits and demerits of the decision are debatable and it is premature to pass any verdict. However, the politico-economic complications caused by Brexit have substantiated that its aftermath could not be evaluated objectively beforehand. Consequently, the fall-out proved to be not only multi-dimensional but lasting as well. Even after six years of the national choice, though with a fractional margin, the issue is the prime determinant in the country’s politics. Four Prime Ministers have made strenuous efforts to wriggle out of the situation but could not and the fifth has taken over with the same mission. Actually, Britain has not been able to make the economic readjustments essentially required for the post-Brexit phase which has led to on-going political instability. David Cameron (2010-16) supported continued membership but after the ‘leave vote’ stepped down. Theresa May (2016-19) could not develop a workable road-map for the exit and left the office plunging the Brexit process into further turmoil. Boris Johnson (2019-22) took the bull by the horns and emerged as the man who ‘got Brexit done’, however his measures could not bring the promised dividends for the British economy. Apart from it, Britain also lost considerable market share across three of its largest non-EU merchandise-importing countries in 2021: the US, Canada and Japan. The icing on the cake was the effects of Covid-19 and the Ukraine war and he also had to quit. The worst happened with Liz Truss who could survive for 45 days only; the shortest stint of a British premier in office. Some political observers have pointed out that apart from economic issues particularly the Brexit-created ones, the newly-adopted procedure of the Conservative Party for choosing its parliamentary leaders has been a cause of successive replacements in 10-Downing Street.

Liz Truss assumed office on 6 September 2022 with the claim to have a sound plan for the resolution of all the economic ills of the country. To keep her pledge, Liz came out with a ‘mini budget’ on the 23rd of the same month committing billion-pound unfunded tax rebates; which was immediately discarded by the analysts to be a gravely ‘misconceived recovery strategy’. The announcement undermined the Sterling and caused alarm in the financial markets forcing the Bank of England to intervene. Some observers termed it as a ‘fantasy economics’ as it was based upon the assumption that it will release the ‘enormous potential’ of the British and not on any scientific calculations. Few critics preferred to call it a ‘form of magical thinking’ as it lacked a concrete foundation. Most probably, the pursuit of ideology over pragmatism proved to be the Achilles heel of this scheme. However, some experts in British economics think differently. They view that the ailment i.e. stagnant growth was correctly diagnosed however the ‘package of curative measures’ was inadequate. The so-called plan generated such a political-cum-economic mess that piecemeal U-turns and even Kwasi Kwarteng’s replacement with Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor of Exchequer could not save the situation pushing the premier to finally resign on 20 October. A political scientist sarcastically remarked that during her brief stint Liz Truss demonstrated ‘how not to run a government?

Liz Truss has been replaced by Rishi Sunak, the first British Prime Minister of color, on 25 October: a time, when Britain is passing through one of the most turbulent eras of its political history. The 40-year high inflation rate i.e. 10.1% is causing acute ‘cost of living crises’. Continued industrial unrest is aggravating ‘labor crunch’. Wide-spread strikes in postal and railway departments are disturbing normal life. Looming energy crises during the coming winter, due to Ukraine war, has become a nightmare. The ruling Conservative Party is divided to an unprecedented extent. In this scenario, it should not be surprising if Britain has been the only G-7 economy that failed to re-attain its pre-pandemic level by the second quarter of2022. Factually speaking, the economy shrank by 0.3% in August. Various world agencies have already forecasted a full-year recession for the kingdom.

Rishi Sunak’s assumption of office has been pleasantly welcomed nationally, particularly by the commerce-related community. The new premier is reported to be popular among the corporate leaders who closely observed him working for the ‘business support package’ during the Covid-19 days. This group is hopeful of some sound measures to rehabilitate the ailing economy. This optimism was reflected through 10% rise in the pound’s value versus the dollar after touching rock-bottom on 26 September hitherto unparalleled in British history.

Rishi Sunak has also earned respect by honestly admitting that the ‘extent of the economic difficulties ahead is enormous’ and the public should realize that the State is unable to fix all the problems due to its limited scope of intervention. He did not mince his words to declare that the monetary or military support for Ukraine will not be scaled down keeping in view the enormity of the war situation. Highlighting the role of intra-party differences in the ongoing uncertainty, he demonstrated his resolve to re-galvanize his party and unite the members under his fresh economic and political vision. Apparently, the new Prime Minister has taken a very positive start. Let us hope, Britain comes out from this hard time with flying colours.

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