Introduction to National Institute Economic Review no 250
Regardless of the particular form that Brexit ultimately takes, the UK faces an unprecedented set of political, economic, and social challenges. While the causes are many and complex, they amount to a crisis of confidence and popular trust that has overturned the normal logic of political practice and policymaking. The national interest demands a strategy for the decades ahead, capable of putting the country back on its feet.
This collection of essays aims to launch a serious debate about what such a strategy should look like. It seeks to establish coherent priorities for government – of whichever political stripe – in addressing challenges ranging from low productivity and ageing infrastructure to economic and regional inequalities and the UK’s post-Brexit role in the world. It proposes measures to shore up the Union and improve governance. It seeks to challenge established thinking on such topics as industrial policy and the roles of fiscal and monetary policy, on the grounds that unprecedented challenges demand fresh ideas.
Above all, it amounts to a plea for rational, evidencebased policymaking and a warning against populist approaches. The authors, all acknowledged experts in their field, reflect no political alignments or party affiliations. They are, however, united in the view that restoring national cohesion and confidence requires sustained initiatives, both domestic and vis-à-vis the rest of the world, that are well targeted, feasible, efficient, affordable, collectively coherent, and mutually reinforcing. Most share the conviction that public spending and the way the UK uses its resources will have to change if the needs of an ageing society, continual technological change, and a constantly changing world are to be met, while working within prudent public and private financial constraints. The inescapable conclusion is that the nation’s economic and social policies, together with supporting public investments and actions, will have to be overhauled on the basis of established facts and realities.
These papers, with their policy proposals, are presented in four basic sections:
• Maximising the output from available resources.
• Outward-facing policies: foreign policy, and defence and security.
• Addressing market failures: industrial policy, climate, housing, infrastructure.
• Enhancing the capacity of government to deliver.