Labour is committed to ending the 1% cap on pay rises for public sector workers, and a number of Conservative cabinet members, including the arch Brexiteers, Gove and Johnson, have also called for lifting the pay cap. Although May has told them to shut up on the grounds that it won’t be possible to meet the cost, it is most unlikely, if there is a wave of strikes, that any government will be able to keep the lid on this issue.
There is a strong moral argument for ensuring that nurses, teachers, firemen and policemen are fairly paid for the services they provide. There is also a practical justification because it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit new staff into many areas of the public services.
The Brexit process is, of course, the main reason why Britain is no longer able to pay its public servants decently. It has already hugely damaged the economy by putting Sterling into a nose dive, that will provoke rising inflation as the cost of imported goods rise in the coming months. The risks surrounding the Brexit process are sending investors to put their money elsewhere and businesses in the finance sector are already relocating their staff to Luxembourg, Frankfurt and Dublin. More seriously, the xenophobia released by the Referendum process makes foreigners think twice before bringing their skills to Britain – and so the recruitment base for the public sector is shrinking.
All of these negative impacts have occurred over the past year simply because of the threat of Brexit and because of the Government’s failure to set out a credible negotiating strategy. What seems to be abundantly clear is that, if the UK is to leave the European Union and the Single Market, it will be deliberately inflicting on itself massive, long-lasting economic damage that cannot be remedied by opening up new trade deals with other more distant countries.
The strangest thing about the Brexit process is that it is plain for all to see from what has gone on during this year that it has already heaped horrendous ills on the country, but that most people are accepting this in a fatalistic way, lulled by the oft-repeated mantra that this is “the will of the people”.
There is now talk of prosecuting Tony Blair for leading Britain, on false grounds, into the Iraq war. May and the Brexiteers should also be open to prosecution for the damage that they have already done to the social and economic fabric of our country, and be prevented from continuing to hold high office.
The fatuous election called by May to strengthen her negotiating position backfired, but she has failed to accept the signal that voters don’t want to be pushed into a poorer future. Businessmen, lawyers, doctors, academics, artists, environmentalists, supporters of workers’ rights, those concerned with national security and many others – especially young people – who have watched what was going on in silent disbelief for the past 12 months are now telling her loud and clear that they do not like what she is doing.
Perhaps now it will dawn on our politicians on all sides that the best way of responding to claims for an end to austerity is to stop the Brexit process in its tracks – and so reopen the possibility that Britain can return to a prosperity that will make it easy to raise the fiscal resources required to escape from austerity.
This is just common sense but none of our leaders seem prepared to admit it.