Skip to main content

Brexit and its wider political and economic context

On 10th May 2019, the UK Government Department for Exiting the EU ("DexEU") published on its website a transcript of the speech given the previous day by its Secretary of State, Steve Barclay, at the Future of Europe Conference at Sibiu , Romania.

This was a somewhat optimistic speech, repeating the Prime Minister's well-known theme, that whilst Brexit, meant that the UK would be leaving the European Union, it would not be leaving Europe. 

The speech highlighted Europe-wide issues of global significance  such as Cyber Security, Climate Change and  Regional Military Co-operation where the UK has an important role to play and wanted and very much needed to co-operate with like-minded European countries as well as with the wider world.

The fact that it was Steve Barclay as Secretary of State for DexEU who gave the speech was perhaps an overt message that, notwithstanding Brexit, the UK and the EU needed to work  closely together for mutual benefit  in the future.

On the 13th May 2019, "The Times" published an article under the headline "British jobs boom shows little sign of fading out" which reported on the latest quarterly survey by  CIPD (the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) showing a higher proportion of the more than 2000 members surveyed planning to increase staff levels than was the case three months ago. The "net employment balance" had risen from a positive 20 in the previous survey to 22.

The "Times" article also reported on figures published in April 2019 by the UK Government Office for National Statistics showing that the number of working people in the UK had reached 32.71million, the highest since 1971, whilst the number of people unemployed in the UK had fallen to 1.34 million , an unemployment rate of 3.9%, the lowest unemployment rate since 1975.

On the other hand, the same article quoted forecasts from the Bank of England of the previous week purporting to show that the UK is heading for the longest run of falling investment since the Second World War. This was backed up by a separate survey by the accountancy practice, BDO, which , according to The Times , found that UK business confidence in April 2019 remained at its lowest level since 2012.

What is the general public to make of this collection of rather mixed messages? At the very least, it may emphasise the importance to many people of trying to resolve the present Brexit uncertainties as soon as possible, one way or the other.