Charity begins at home. Self help is the best way to a better tomorrow. We need to apply these two truths to improving our lives and economy in 2017.
The UK will continue to be supportive of those in need of help, and needs to be generous to the disabled. It also needs to do more to make it worthwhile to work, and worthwhile for UK companies to pitch for and win contracts to supply us here at home. In 2017 one of the main tasks of government should be to get the balance of payments deficit down, so we no longer have to depend on the goodwill of foreigners as the Governor of the Bank likes to say.
The two elements of the balance of payments deficit, comprising one quarter of it, are directly under government control. These are the EU contributions and overseas aid the UK government pays away. I want the government to send the Article 50 letter soon, and then progress whatever talks are needed as quickly as possible. We want to stop making those EU payments quickly. There is not a great deal to discuss before we leave and cancel the subscription. The rest of the EU just has to decide whether they want to have tariffs imposed on their exports to us or not, not a difficult question to answer.
Overseas aid entails sending large sums of our money to the EU, and to other international bodies. Some of this in turn is spent with large companies operating from other rich countries. Let’s cut out the middlemen and just give aid direct for the good causes we believe in. The aid money should be spent either in the region we are trying to help, or on procuring goods and services they need from UK corporations. These changes would reduce the strain of aid on the balance of payments whilst enabling us to target and improve its effectiveness at the same time.
The government’s pending new industrial strategy should have import saving at its heart. UK products are now 12% better value compared to continental ones thanks to the devaluation of the pound since July 2015. The UK government should show a lead by insisting on a much higher UK content in all the purchases it makes. They can start immediately with defence where EU rules do not prevent buying from home sources, and move on to the rest once we have left and can change the procurement rules. Why are so many new Ajax armoured vehicles going to be built in Spain? Why does the steel for our new submarines come from the continent?
Where the UK government is buying or subsidising the purchase of buses and trains they should be made in the UK. There are ways of doing this even under EU rules. Where the government is working with Housing Associations to build more affordable housing they should be constructed from UK materials and products. In each of these markets there are competing UK companies that can compete for the work and expand capacity as needed.
Brexit offers us a great opportunity to make more for ourselves and in the process make more of ourselves. Charity begins at home, and self help is aided by good neighbourly purchasing.