By Rod Minchin, Press Association
Page 1: 12:19
A former trade lawyer dubbed the “Brexiteers’ brain” has criticised the Government over the lack of planning ahead of a possible no-deal Brexit – warning it risks the future of the country.
Shanker Singham branded it “shocking and verging on malpractice” that so little preparation had been done in the event of Britain leaving the European Union in March without a deal.
He said that planning for no-deal would strengthen Prime Minister Theresa May’s hand in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations with Brussels.
Mr Singham called on Chancellor Philip Hammond – who is due to present a crunch Budget at the end of October – to focus on “big structural changes”.
“One of things about watching Budgets over the last few years is that the vision and the scope has got smaller, smaller and smaller,” Mr Singham said.
“You are talking about little tiny things. I would like to see big structural changes.
“I would like to see in the reality that we face now, and I think it is fair to say that the Chancellor has not been the biggest advocate of this… he’s unlocked £3 billion for preparing this country for the eventuality that is very possible that we emerge without a deal… that is not enough.
“It is shocking and verging on malpractice that we have not prepared for what is a very possible outcome.
“I think a major element of it should be unlocking that and that we are getting ready.
“Even if we do have a deal the fact that we are getting ready for the possible outcome of no deal will help you in your negotiations.
“Whereas, if you are not getting ready – and I would say we are not getting ready – you are really imperilling the future of every person in this country.”
Mr Singham, who is the director of international trade and competition at the free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, was speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
He said there had been very little long-term planning for Britain leaving the EU, describing it as a “huge problem”.
“There has been very little discussion and we’re focused on the latest thing (EU chief Brexit negotiator) Michel Barnier said or the latest conflict with Boris. This is irrelevant stuff,” he said.
“What really matters here – whether you like Brexit or not – is that Brexit is a major global event.
“We have a G7 nation that is about to embrace free trade for the first time in over 40 years.
“It is a major global event and yet there has been no real discussion about what we are going to do at any kind of level, any kind of big vision, this is the moment to do that.
“This is the moment that all these things can happen and if you don’t have the discussion and put the vision in place then all that will happen is we will be back to where we started again.”
Miatta Fahnbulleh, chief executive of the New Economics Foundation, said she believed that people who voted to leave the EU in the referendum wanted change, and she feared they were not going to get it.
“For me, the thing I find most terrifying is that some people voted for Brexit because they wanted an independent trading system, but I think (for) the big chunk of people who swung the vote to leave, it was about change,” she said.
“It was about the reality of their communities and the fact that things are getting harder and they can’t see a way out, and they wanted change.
“It worries me that when all this oxygen is being thrown into Brexit we are not talking about that, and these are massive issues and really hard to unpick.
“The frustration of people will just grow and grow while our politicians and our thinkers are just focusing on this thing.”