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William Keegan on business
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    The prime minister’s simultaneous promises to exit the EU and look after the interests of Remainers simply cannot be given credence

    Theresa May is hopelessly conflicted. Quite simply, she cannot reconcile her promise to look after the interests of those who voted Remain with her commitment to a hard Brexit. To put it another way, she cannot look after the interests of the 72% of “the people” (that is, including those under 18) who did not “speak” on 23 June.

    For hard Brexit is what her policy is. By repeatedly placing controls over immigration above continued membership of the European customs union and the single market, she makes it abundantly clear that she has been captured by the Brexiters.

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    The abandonment of laissez-faire capitalism would be welcome indeed – if the shadow of Brexit were not looming over our whole economic future

    ‘If America had a parliamentary system, Donald Trump … would already be facing a vote of no confidence. But we don’t; somehow we’re going to have to survive four years of this.” Thus wrote the Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman in the New York Times recently. Unfortunately, although we in the UK do have a parliamentary system – indeed, the “mother” of them – the signs are that the majority of our parliamentarians are prepared to go along with the prime minister’s plan to invoke article 50 of the Lisbon treaty.

    It was Edmund Burke who, in his celebrated address to the electors of Bristol, said that MPs should regard themselves as representatives of their constituencies, not delegates. As far as one can gather, although Conservative Brexiters such as John Redwood and Iain Duncan Smith make all the noise, the majority of MPs think Brexit is a crazy idea, with the potential to do enormous harm – and last a lot longer than four years of Trump.

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    The majority in both houses believe leaving the EU is a disastrous idea. But only a principled few have tried to steer Britain away from its fate

    ‘The first duty of an MP is to do what he [or she] thinks … is right and necessary for the honour and safety of Great Britain. His second duty is to his constituents, of whom he is the representative but not the delegate.”

    These are the wise words of Sir Winston Churchill, ignored by the majority of our elected representatives in last week’s vote on the Brexit bill.

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    It is not just the British economy at stake: the absurdities and evasions of the Leave campaign are jeopardising hard-won stability across the continent

    There are many problems afflicting the British economy, and many afflicting the European Union. The trouble with Brexit is that it is almost guaranteed to aggravate both.

    Although I continue to emphasise the economic damage likely to result from cutting ourselves off from half of our export market, in common with many Remainers I am also exercised by the geopolitical risks in any move that encourages the current outbreak of nationalism in Europe.

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    Despite their conciliatory words, the chancellor and Theresa May are merely continuing the damaging small-state policy of George Osborne

    As the immensity of the consequences of the referendum strikes home, the May government is becoming increasingly dependent on the Conservative party’s rediscovery of the need for “infrastructure” and “industrial strategy”.

    It was therefore entirely in keeping with the chaotic approach of the Brexiters that Theresa May should sack one of her leading advisers on both these subjects last week, because she did not like Lord Heseltine’s opposition to Brexit.

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    Amid warnings of the dire economic impact of leaving the EU, we are reduced to hoping the Evening Standard’s new editor can counter the Brexit nonsense

    To adapt Dr Samuel Johnson’s famous saying: attacking the BBC for alleged bias is a last refuge of the scoundrel. In this case, the scoundrel is one Julian Knight MP, who last week assembled some 70 fellow Brexiters to attack the BBC for allegedly being biased in favour of the Remain camp.

    Yes, we Remainers still exist and, according to an interesting finding by Alastair Campbell, our numbers may well be growing, which could help to explain why the Leave camp, ostensibly monarch of all it surveys, is displaying increasing signs of insecurity, as the falsity of its prospectus becomes manifest to a more reflective audience.

    The terrible truth is that the Conservative and Unionist party has become the Conservative and Ukip party

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    The rationalisations and concessions are starting to emerge as the reality of leaving dawns. This is not the moment for Remainers to despair

    There is nothing one can do to avoid natural disasters, or “acts of God” as they used to be called. But the prospect of Brexit is a man-made disaster. I say prospect because it hasn’t happened yet and could still be avoided, despite the fact there seem to be a lot of people around who think it has already happened.

    The “best face” and rationalisation process has already begun. Last week saw inspired reports that, on her trip to Saudi Arabia, Theresa May was softening her tone from the earlier approach towards a “hard Brexit”.

    There might be a revolt of the young, who stand to lose far more than the comfortably off 'sovereignty' brigade

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    Of all the reasons for Theresa May to go for an immediate vote, the clearest is that the future prospects for Britain are darkening all the time

    My friend Paul Whitehouse told me the news in my local cafe. At first I thought he was practising a sketch for a re-run of the much-missed Fast Show.

    Sadly, he wasn’t. Theresa May’s repeated denials of an intention to call a snap election had gone the way of so many of her inconsistent and often fatuous pronouncements. There was going to be an election after all.

    If she ploughs on, she could end up by 2020 as the most unpopular prime minister since records began

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    Britain’s struggle with monetary policy has not just had economic consequences: it is also a key source of the Euroscepticism that has brought us to crisis

    This month sees the 20th anniversary of the granting by New Labour of independence to the Bank of England.

    It was not full-scale independence but “operational independence” in monetary policy: that is, the freedom to change interest rates without having to consult the chancellor. The Bank is still the Treasury’s agent in other matters, such as decisions about the nation’s currency reserves.

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    Nothing – not even policies for which Labour was excoriated two years ago – is too much to swallow for a party, and a leader, determined to rise above the fray

    Jeremy Corbyn may score badly with the wider public, but for as long as I can remember the press have given even the most admired Labour leaders a hard time during election campaigns. A recent exception was Tony Blair, who – for a time – achieved rock star status with the media.

    Many reports have suggested that when presented with individual Labour policies – in what one might call a “blind tasting” – respondents have been much more enthusiastic than when the names of Corbyn and some of his colleagues come up.

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    If the SNP or Lib Dems end up holding all the cards come Friday morning, the economic catastophe of leaving the EU could be averted

    An important moment during the so-called election “debates” last week occurred when a young lady in the studio audience told Theresa May that she had voted for Brexit because she had swallowed the lie that it would bring £350m a week for the health service. The prime minister, an uncomfortable Remainer and now an uncomfortable Brexiter, had no answer to this, resorting to the cliche that the government spends more every year on the NHS. This, like so many of the answers trotted out by her (also uncomfortable) team is an example of what Dr Johnson might have called “a last refuge of the political scoundrel”.

    The crisis arises because the increase in NHS spending each year is nowhere near enough to meet the well-known demands on the service. As I understand it, extra NHS spending is running at no more than 1% a year in “real” – ie inflation-adjusted – terms, whereas merely to avoid going backwards the service needs an annual real-terms increase of 4%.

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    With living standards already stagnating or declining, the remorseless reaction of the international markets to the referendum vote is starting to make itself felt

    When I suggested before the election that an ideal outcome would be a hung parliament and a coalition to think again on Brexit, I was certainly not thinking of the DUP. But, as Harold Macmillan once said: “Here we are, and the question is: where do we go from here?”

    It seems to be generally agreed that the election result boiled down to a vote against austerity and a vote against a so-called “hard Brexit”, with the young – predominantly Remainers and angry about austerity – in full swing.

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    If the public did not vote to be poorer, as a resurgent chancellor suggests, they must be disturbed by the mounting evidence of looming economic damage

    As the true extent of the Brexit farce becomes more apparent, it is now open warfare between the Brexiters, while the rest of the world – with the possible exceptions of Presidents Putin and Trump – look on in sympathetic bewilderment.

    One of several satisfactory aspects of the election result was the way that Theresa May and her advisers at No 10 met their comeuppance over their widely leaked plans to sack the chancellor of the exchequer.

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    Countervailing action is needed now to curtail economic disaster and preserve the enthusiastic support of young voters

    At a friend’s wedding celebration on a remote Swedish island last weekend, I kept being approached by baffled Swedes. Their recurring refrain was: why is your country doing this?

    Sweden is a fellow member of the European Union and, in common with the UK, enjoys “the best of both worlds”. Like us, at the moment, it possesses all the advantages of EU membership, not least from belonging to a powerful trading bloc: it is also not a member of the eurozone, whose economic policies have been far too deflationary. The recent recovery in the eurozone is to be welcomed, but by no means justifies the previous policies that aggravated unemployment in so many countries, especially Greece.

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    Harold Wilson was not a Europhile, but a clear-eyed realist. Jeremy Corbyn could learn much from the story of the 1975 referendum

    What have David Cameron (Tory prime minister, 2010-16), and Harold Wilson (Labour prime minister, 1964-70 and 1974-76) got in common?

    Answer: in order to keep their respective parties together, because they were split over “Europe”, each of them called a referendum. Wilson triumphed, and went down in history as a consummate politician, indeed statesman. Cameron failed lamentably, and his mishandling of this vital issue is sometimes described as the biggest prime ministerial disaster brought upon the nation since Lord North lost the American colonies.

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    We are fond of remembering our role as wartime liberators. But now it is we who need help, in the form of an offer to protect us from our folly

    ‘A visitor from Mars would assume that the UK is under attack from a hostile power seeking to destroy our economy and many of our national institutions … But there is no hostile foreign power. The threatened damage is entirely self-inflicted.”

    This forceful reflection on the state of the nation comes from Sir Brian Unwin, former president of the European Investment Bank, one of the many EU institutions from whose work the British economy has benefited through our membership.

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    Labour has a golden opportunity to capitalise on the strong pro-European feelings of the young

    When I referred in my last column to Chancellor Philip Hammond as the only grown-up minister in this chaotic cabinet, I was unaware that he had just put his name to a joint article in the pro-Brexit Sunday Telegraph with his arch-foe Liam Fox, making the following statement: “We respect the will of the British people – in March 2019 the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. We will leave the customs union… we will leave the single market… ”

    True, this was followed by reports that he wanted, in effect, to retain quasi-membership for several years, but the two emphasised that such a precaution “cannot be a back door to staying in the EU”. There were also reports that Hammond had in some mysterious way scored a victory, which contrasted vividly with other reports that his attempt at some kind of coup had been foiled.

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    Michel Barnier did not say we needed to be taught a lesson. We are not being blackmailed or fined. We are simply unwilling to accept our obligations

    ‘Sometimes you get the impression that the British are talking to themselves,” said the outgoing French ambassador, Sylvie Bermann, on the Today programme last week.

    There have been suggestions that the French are rubbing their hands and doing their best to lure as much business as they can from the City of London to Paris.

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    This autumn marks the anniversaries of two notable economic humiliations. But they are as nothing to what might happen if we leave the EU

    This is quite an anniversary year for great British economic disasters. Last weekend saw the 25th anniversary of the ignominious exit of the pound from the European exchange rate mechanism – “the first Brexit”, and, I still hope, the only one.

    Then this November will see the 50th anniversary of the dramatic 14% devaluation of the pound – an episode from which the Labour government of Harold Wilson never quite recovered, not least because Wilson made the mistake of proclaiming that “the pound in your pocket has not been devalued” – based on a brief by Treasury officials which was aimed at explaining that, from the point of view of the pocket or purse, it was only the price of imports that were going up, and spending on imports was only a small fraction of total household spending.

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    It’s had control of monetary policy for 20 years but, if the government persists with leaving the EU, governor Mark Carney only has the power to limit the inevitable damage this will do to our economy

    In common with Sir John Major, Denis Healey, the Bank of England’s historian David Kynaston, and former governor (1983-93) Robin Leigh-Pemberton, I had great reservations about the granting of independence to the Bank.

    By independence – more precisely “operational independence” – was meant control of monetary policy: giving the Bank the power to change interest rates, as opposed to merely offering advice to chancellors and prime ministers that could be ignored.

    Related: Is the Bank of England losing its way?

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