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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Bureaucracy and expense - a Brexit reality

I have written enough on this blog about the impact that Brexit is going to have on our economy, on jobs and on our standard of living to have conveyed the sense that I think it will be a disaster.

However, what about the rhetoric from the leave campaigns during the referendum campaign that promised us a country freed from bureaucracy, with more money to spend on frontline services?

Yes, it turns out that was nonsense as well.

What has provoked my latest rant is this article in the Telegraph that reports that Theresa May has ordered officials to start work on a British satellite-navigation system to rival the EU’s Galileo, in a show of strength as Brussels threatens to block the UK from its project.

In other words we are going to spend £100 million of public money just to "map out" plans for a post-Brexit UK satellite system. This is despite the fact that the UK has already contributed 1.4bn euros (£1.2bn) to the EU's 30 satellite network, which once fully operational in 2020 will provide an alternative to the US GPS system and be used in everything from smartphones to security-critical military operations.

Presumably we are writing off that £1.2 billion and will be spending billions more developing our alternative if, as is becoming increasingly likely, we cannot negotiate access to the European system once we leave the EU without a deal?

All of this is up in the air of course and, as the article makes clear, the UK has some aces up its sleeve on this particular system that may enable us to insist on access after Brexit, despite the EU's security concerns. But the story does highlight the complexities of Brexit and why, the insistence by Brexiteers that leaving the EU is straightforward is absolute nonsense.

And then there is the bureaucracy. Are we just moving from one bureaucracy to another? Well, much of the European bureaucracy had a purpose, though there is still a strong case for slimming it down and reforming the institutions. What is not clear is the purpose of the 16,000 additional civil servants being taken on to manage the Brexit process.

As the Guardian reports, the Brexit Secretary admitted a few days ago that there are already 7,000 civil servants working on Brexit and funding is in place to hire 9,000 more if needed.

All of this expenditure is taking place at the same time as key public services delivered by local government and the NHS are being cut back, with some institutions struggling to deliver statutory obligations.

If this is what taking control means then you can keep it.
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