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Are we about to elect a government without a manifesto?

by Jack Schickler | 14.06.2016

A victory for Brexiteers seems likely to see a change of government – with Boris taking the helm as prime minister, and other campaigners such as Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith and Priti Patel rewarded with senior positions.

A government-in-waiting is normally expected to set out a detailed manifesto. Leave campaigners have not done so – allowing them to promise all things to all people.

Such populism is a massive risk – of poor execution, disillusionment among voters when promises aren’t kept, and an economic turmoil which the relatively inexperienced crew at Downing Street would be at a loss to handle.

Their numbers don’t add up. The idea that we’d reclaim £350 million a week from Brussels after we leave is a fiction, described by the Institute for Fiscal Studies as “clearly absurd”. The independent body also estimates the economic shock of Brexit would lead to a fiscal shortfall of between £20 billion and £40 billion in 2020, which would imply tax rises, spending cuts or a rising deficit.

Yet Brexiteers commit to spending more on the NHS while cutting VAT on energy bills. In other areas, such as the common agricultural policy, government procurement and tax avoidance, Vote Leave massively overstates the savings Brexit offers.

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Meanwhile, the Leave camp’s “strategy” for negotiating our exit terms with the EU seems likely to result in a bloody divorce which won’t give us what we want. Gove is threatening to veto other members’ plans until they submit and pledging emergency legislation limiting EU law, all the while trying to break up the EU.

They say they would cut net migration to tens of thousands, while at the same time espousing the incompatible goal of allowing non-EU immigration to rise.

They cite Economists for Brexit, the only group to predict a post-Brexit boom, while shrinking from the politically impossible policies it espouses – scrapping gender equality laws, climate change rules and banking regulations while removing import tariffs and being prepared to accept the elimination of UK manufacturing.

They say Brexit would mean we would “recapture control of our borders”, while implausibly claiming that it would make no difference on our only land frontier, that with Ireland.

Of course, Brexiteers argue, it all comes down to sovereignty – the important thing is not what decisions are taken, but that the British parliament takes them. That argument ignores many areas where the UK needs to work with others to deliver what voters want – tackling illegal migration at source, dealing with climate change, or keeping the open trade that creates jobs.

If a bunch of politicians put forward such a set of inconsistent and implausible policies in an election campaign, it would be sent packing.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

4 Responses to “Are we about to elect a government without a manifesto?”

  • This morning’s statements by Brexiteer MPs suggest a vote to leave would bring at least 4 years of political chaos and paralysis in the UK, with Tories and Labour both unable to command a majority or respond to external economic and political crisis. Sovereignty?

  • The current Govt can’t tell us, or indeed doesn’t want to tell us, what’s going to happen if we remain. Normal service resumes Friday morning…