The Great British Reboot review – could Brexit really give Britain a boost?

Alex Brummer’s timely book about our future correctly argues the UK must change, but for the wrong reasons

The paradox of Brexit is that, if this ultra-free market project incubated by the hard right is to have any chance of success, it must trigger an unprecedented wave of economic and social activism, mobilisation and intervention. A project conceived by Thatcherite ultras who wanted to throw off the regulatory “yoke” of Brussels and sclerotic Europe can only deliver to the disillusioned, left-behind people who correctly wanted a dramatic change in the status quo by a massive state-led restructuring of the way Britain works. They did not vote Leave for an intensification of free-market globalisation and more libertarian carelessness about the condition of the country beyond London. To make a success of Brexit, Britain has to become more European.

This book, arguing that Brexit requires and will cause a great, state-directed, British reboot, exemplifies the paradox. For large parts I was cheering the author along with his searing account of how Britain has decadently sold so many of its strategic assets overseas, while offering a rollicking (and highly readable) account of Britain’s remaining and undersung strengths in high technology, financial services, universities, pharmaceuticals and the creative industries. What we have to do, declares this convert to Brexit, is to abandon free-market decadence and instead demand the public and private sectors seriously get behind our economic strengths as they never have before. And that must be accompanied by federalising the country, renewing our shot-through social contract with, for example, an innovative social insurance scheme for social care, giving local government the autonomy to tax and borrow, supporting key institutions such as the BBC as key underpinnings of the creative industries and overhauling everything from how companies are governed and owned to how we organise training.

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