If the worst comes to the worst

In 1940, the new Churchill government, while of course aiming to win the war, planned for the worst case scenario – a successful German invasion of Britain. Plans were made with the Canadian government for the Royal Family to move to Canada, and a British government in exile to be established there. Gold and other treasure would be moved out of reach of the invaders. But on the basis that we would keep the Germans at bay and continue to fight on, a crash programme of factory building and land cultivation was embarked on.

In 2017, the British government is likewise duty bound to make basic arrangements for a breakdown of negotiations with the EU, to cope with the possibility that the EU demands for financial settlement and rights for its citizens living in Britain are more than Britain could possibly countenance.

Given EU insistence that the amount of Britain’s Brexit payments be agreed before trade negotiations can even begin, reaffirmed on July 10th by the chief EU negotiator (although now, October, slightly modified), the amounts (€50-100 billion) being bandied about by EU sources, make it clear that serious trade negotiations may never begin. The absolutely key problem would be, in that case, ensuring that our export products continue to have affordable access to components and materials currently imported from the EU.

As well as this consideration, in the interests of reducing our enormous import bill, we need anyway a crash programme of sourcing many currently imported products from within Britain. We need to start on this now so that the EU negotiators cannot hold us to ransom. There are some signs that Continental components manufacturers are prepared, even anxious, to establish factories in the car supply chains to take advantage of the low £ : € exchange rate. Every possible inducement should be deployed to help them find suitable sites and generous investment allowances. Also major retailers like John Lewis and Marks and Spencer should set up feeder factories to reduce the very large import strain they currently impose on the balance of payments. No innovation is required, just the best possible manufacturing improvements with an emphasis on product and process designs which conserve resources, be they materials, energy, labour or land.


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