21 September 2018

With Brexit on the horizon, it’s time to refocus on domestic reform

By Callum Price

As Brexit draws nearer, it’s time to put domestic policy back at the top of the agenda. Whatever form Brexit takes, the Government needs to show a vision for the future of the UK. The Centre for Policy Studies has been engaged with how to achieve just that, hosting a series key policy debates over the last year.

For business, leaving the EU brings both anxiety and opportunity. British companies are at different points on a spectrum between clambering to retain their foothold inside the EU and being revved up to cut continental ties and go global.

This divergence in priorities highlights the need to start thinking seriously about how to help business once we are outside the EU. The Government is already pushing its industrial strategy in addition to the Department for International Trade’s #GlobalBritain export push, but will this be enough?

What about the perennial productivity question? How do we, for example, get business to start spending their vast cash reserves on R&D?

Equally important to our post-Brexit prosperity is nurturing a welfare system that looks after our most vulnerable but incentivises and rewards work. There is also an urgent need for tax reform, both to leave more money in consumers’ pockets and to avoid stifling business growth through punitive rates.

We mustn’t look at all of this through an M25-shaped lens, either. How can we make sure that the economic effects of Brexit, the benefits and the shocks, are shared fairly around the country? As we leave the EU, getting all these policies right has never been more important.

There is also the question of intergenerational unfairness. It should worry us all that home ownership has become a pipe dream for anyone below the age of thirty-five. It’s a problem that needs to be tackled in a way that won’t harm the UK’s increasingly ageing population.

How do we strike this balance? How else can we address the divide between old and young? Should we do more to include young people in our political system? And what can be done to burst the Westminster bubble, and make our national politics better connected with the country it serves?

Failure to confront these difficult questions risks handing the initiative to those on the margins of British politics. On the left, rhetoric around ‘a new way of doing things’ is ubiquitous and comes alongside a multitude of radical but potentially disastrous policy suggestions. Those on the centre-right need to offer reforms whilst still in a position to implement them, and they must be policies that make a tangible difference in ordinary voters’ lives.

Conference season offers an opportunity to find some answers to these difficult questions. The Conservative Party has seen a big push, in the aftermath of the 2017 election, for fresh ideas. There is no shortage of people willing to discuss these issues and conference is a great opportunity to let their ideas percolate through to government.

For the past year, the Centre for Policy Studies has been providing a platform for the New Generation of Conservative thinking in order to tackle these pressing domestic policy issues, and will continue this work at conference. The CPS events space will play host to a range of important debates, on housing, welfare, business, tax, mental health, intergenerational unfairness and more. We will hear from the likes of Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss, along with other leading lights such as Jesse Norman and West Midlands mayor Andy Street.

How can we increase home ownership? Will we ever see tax cuts again? How do we turn UK SMEs into global champions? What’s stopping women from getting involved in politics? What does ‘Global Britain’ mean and how can we make sure that it provides opportunity for everyone?

These questions need addressing now more than ever. If you’re in Birmingham next week, come along to find out how.

Callum Price is Events Manager at the Centre for Policy Studies