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  • Tim Oliver

BFP10: 29.11-3.12 ‘Robust Pragmatism’

Speaking this week to the Lord mayor’s Banquet, a speech in which prime ministers traditionally focus on foreign affairs (the city providing so much of the treasure side to the blood and treasure of British foreign policy), Sunak said his approach to China would be one of ‘robust pragmatism.’ Much ink has already been spilt interpreting that phrase. One could easily imagine him saying the same about many of the UK's relationships, including the EU.

Here then are my British Foreign Policy 10 from the week when a growing number of Tory MPs announced they will not stand for reelection, but Boris Johnson and David Miliband could be plotting comebacks: 10 of the best reports, podcasts, twitter threads speeches etc. that I’ve added to my Zotero database this past week.

  1. Prime Minister’s speech to the Lord Mayor's Banquet 28 November 2022

  2. Britain must get real about its place in the world. The UK needs a more sober and trustworthy approach if it is to reinvent its global role as a medium power ‘with extra clout’, writes John Kampfner.

  3. The FT ran a fantastic four-part series called Brexit: The Next Phase: Part 1: Brexit and the economy: the hit has been ‘substantially negative’ Chris Giles. Part 2: The UK-Australia trade deal: ‘too much for far too little’. Sebastian Payne, Peter Foster and Judith Evans. Part 3: Brexit: Has business found its voice? Daniel Thomas and Peter Foster. Part 4: Politics and Brexit: Fear of the ‘B’ word. By George Parker.

  4. The Economic Reality of Life Outside the EU: Brexit in Charts. Bloomberg also has some excellent analysis of what Brexit has meant for the UK. Allegra Stratton did the best job of summarising it in her daily email, The Readout — GDP: “As national income is the broadest measure of economic performance ... it is the most important. Since Brexit, the UK has effectively held its own.” Sterling: “Well below pre-referendum levels.” Households: “Real household disposable income ... Has trailed all four major EU peers except Spain.” Employment: “The UK has the second-lowest unemployment rate of the largest EU economies after Germany.” Migration: The new post-Brexit rules means numbers have “turned out to be more open than expected” with overall net migration at similar levels (just from non-EU origin countries). Productivity: “On this key measure, the UK has lagged behind France, Germany and the US for some time.” Trade: “The most apparent evidence of Brexit damage.”

  5. How Brexit made Britain a more European country: With a cheaper currency, higher taxes and messier politics, the UK has become continental. By Janan Ganesh.

  6. Fixing Brexit: A New Agenda for a New Partnership With the European Union: A report by Anton Spisak for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

  7. Non-tariff barriers and consumer prices: evidence from Brexit Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) are the main policy impediment to international trade, yet little is known about their pass-through to prices. This paper exploits the Brexit trade policy shock to quantify how NTBs affect consumer prices and welfare. The increase in NTBs raised prices by 6%, implying a pass-through of 50-80%. Based on a standard welfare framework, we show households lost £5.84bn, domestic producers gained £4.78bn, and £1.06bn was lost through deadweight loss. Due to differences in food expenditure shares, households in the lowest decile experience a 52% higher increase in the cost of living than households in the top decile. By Jan David Bakker, Nikhil Datta, Richard Davies and Josh De Lyon.

  8. Will support for Brexit become extinct? In light of recent polling suggesting a substantial shift in opinion on Brexit, Joris Frese, Juho Härkönen and Simon Hix examine - for the UK in a Changing Europe - the extent to which this can be explained through ‘voter replacement’ – the phenomenon of older, Brexit-supporting voters passing away and younger, anti-Brexit voters entering the electorate.

  9. Incendiary claims about the UK census do not reflect reality: We should interrogate the convenient weaponisation of the latest data. By John Burn-Murdoch.

  10. And finally… Rishi Sunak might not have been delighted by news that Boris Johnson could be lurking around the House of Commons for the rest of this decade after the former PM announced this week that he intends to stand at the next election, but perhaps Sir Kier Starmer also faces the prospect of the return of Miliband. David, that is. This week the former Foreign Secretary gave his own foreign policy speech to Chatham House: Weathering the storm: The UK’s role in the world today. He also wrote a piece in The Times: British foreign policy needs honesty, not hubris.

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