(Brexit alone will neither ameliorate nor exacerbate many of the enormous social and economic challenges we face as a nation. However, it will still have enormous indirect impact, either by distracting us entirely or by galvanising our society into desperately needed radical change.
In the first part of this two-part post we imagined how Brexit might turn sour. Now, in the second, let’s be more upbeat and imagine how wonderful things really could be if we as a nation have the courage to grab this unique opportunity for national renewal.
Once again, let’s join our Leave activist Charles Ryder – who, rummaging through some old possessions one day fifteen years hence comes across an old “Vote Leave” poster…)
“Ah, Brexit. ‘Bliss was it that dawn to be alive!’ Even in that euphoric moment, little did we know that it was just the dawn of a future much better than we could dare imagined.
“After the practicalities of the Brexit deal were completed, Prime Minister Theresa May surprised us all and probably herself by proving to be a romantic, in the true sense of the word. She declared Brexit allowed us to completely reimagine ourselves as a great maritime trading nation once again, better equipped to prosper in a global age more than any other country.
“Brexit, she said, had shown the need for government to be as near to the people as possible. She embarked on a program of truly radical devolution, her goal being that each city and region must be given the chance to shape its own vision of a Brexit future. She abolished VAT and replaced it a locally set Goods and Services Tax, which allowed local authorities much more control over revenue generation. Powers to license and tax fracking were also devolved to local level.
“The effect was electric. A ‘can-do’ attitude spread throughout the country: Liverpool and other western facing ports started grand plans to compete with Rotterdam and take back a bigger slice of our burgeoning Atlantic trade. Fishing returned as a viable industry in many coastal towns. Fracking boomed, giving a rich revenue stream to many of former industrial areas in the North as well as cheap energy.
“May’s government did not stop there. She took the very bold step of allowing state schools to make a profit, which incentivised manufacturing businesses to set up chains of vocational schools. For the first time ever, British children who were not academic had access to the high quality education that they needed. Not only that, but industrial areas of the country now had a fully formed ecosystem of skills, cheap energy and emancipated local institutions to sustain long-term growth and even compete with once mighty Germany.
“Not everything in the garden was rosy by any means – as expected, robotisation proved highly disruptive, with many jobs displaced. However, at least the industrial areas of the country had a fighting chance, and much production of the new machines, rather than just the algorithms that powered them, not only took place in Britain but was also exported elsewhere. Throughout much of the nation outside the South East, local pride started to return and the ancient wounds that had been there since the 1980s finally began to heal.
“Perhaps most importantly of all, social conservatives saw that Brexit afforded them what they had long been lacking – a big idea of national renewal based on ‘faith, family and flag’ onto which to pin their beliefs and lobby for change: the denuded social capital of the country, they argued, must be rebuilt before any long-term future could be secured. Slowly but surely, they began to dominate the media narrative, and politicians began to take note.
“Declaring that it was now plain for all to see that high immigration had been used deliberately to conceal huge social ills and that Britain needed to return to its Christian traditions, the government introduced powerful incentives for marriage in the tax system and stopped the discrimination against stay-at-home mothers. Feminism and with it the cultural misandry of the liberal elite was finally routed. Society duly began to heal itself with the stable, married family once again at its core.
“May, then, had proved herself true to her word: a one-nation Prime Minister in the Tory tradition who had successfully rebalanced British society on many fronts. There are still problems, of course, but for my generation – the Brexiteers – life has turned out better than we could have dared hope, and I will be proud to tell my grandchildren of my role in it all in a few years’ time.”