The Government must boldly lead with the vision of a global Britain to safeguard our economy and democracy

The Government must boldly lead with the vision of a global Britain to safeguard our economy and democracy

With recent news of a downward recalculation of the UK’s stock of wealth, a drop in foreign direct investment and a rise in inflation to above 3%, the UK economy will be further strained by the current political and economic uncertainty. The Government must act to address this climate of uncertainty.

Whether or not the data is related to Brexit is subject to a debate which must account for the fact that inflation has been rising since early 2015.

Nonetheless, it is no longer feasible for the Government to remain on the back foot, reacting to events, and not setting the agenda and tone for its vision of a global Britain.

In business, effective leadership can make the difference for a company’s prospects; that is, for its appeal to investors, shareholder loyalty and staff motivation.

Similarly, public attention will turn to the Government to show leadership by bringing the country behind its vision. The public will also keep an eye on Parliament to set the seal through legislation, minded of its duty to the public interest and the popular mandate to leave the EU. So far, its delays to the Withdrawal Bill threaten legal certainty.

It is a tough time economically and politically for any Government. The conditions are undesirable, but they are also opportune and beckon for leadership.

Will Theresa May’s Government seize this opportunity to lead by boosting the UK’s economic and political spirit with a bold, inspiring, message and plan to secure the UK’s prospects and global future, come what may?

Or, will it decide to remain overly cautious in its actions, repetitive in its message and solemn in tone as it struggles with being on the back foot?

The latter decision opens up a political vacuum and invites challenges.

The Labour Party – whose policy is to limit the UK’s economic prospects to the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union while pushing for higher taxes, higher spending and more state intervention – is presenting its vision as more favourable and as influencing the Government’s own policies.

In the current climate of uncertainty and caution from Government, it requires no stretch of the imagination to perceive voters conflating the Labour Party’s confused, but ‘different’ message with ‘better’.

Likewise, the EU could find a reason to further harden its negotiating stance to force more and wholly unreasonable concessions. The negotiations would drift further from goodwill and mutual benefit to a zero-sum mentality.

Now that Labour have chosen state control as an economic model and are flirting with the idea of denying the outcome of the referendum, the British public rely on the Conservatives to stand up both for sound economic reason and for democracy.

Will it stand up and be counted for both?

Theresa May’s Government have the positive, outward-looking, vision of a global Britain – open to trade, talent and international security – but why has it not won over public opinion, secured business confidence and gained goodwill from the EU?

One reason is that it has not adopted the mindset conducive to this vision, presented it uniformly and indubitably to the public, nor, so it seems, taken the necessary steps to secure this vision against all eventualities.

In other words: the commitment is either lacking or so it seems to the public.

The fact that the Prime Minister cannot say whether she would support Brexit in the event of another referendum – without which global Britain cannot happen – does not help inspire confidence in her vision.

The fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared unwilling to set aside funds to prepare for all eventualities – putting your money where your mouth is for global Britain – is also unhelpful.

These seems to be errors in communication. They foster a sense in the public that the Government is reluctant against a climate of uncertainty, which leads to cries of foul from the public.

Some will see this reluctance as reason to amplify their disproportionate fears of imminent economic disaster. Others will think their vote is being ignored or they are being hard-done by the political establishment.

The one side fuels uncertainty, which diminishes business, investor and consumer confidence. The other boosts the appeal of populist parties, undermining trust in authority and expertise.

These two sides represent a wedge in public opinion which emerged before the Brexit vote. However, the ongoing uncertainty and lukewarm leadership could harden this wedge into contrasting political beliefs and thus pave the way for a drastic change in the political landscape.

Leaving this uncertainty unattended tightens the vice grip on democracy, lodged as it is between accusations incompetence and malfeasance in leadership from all sides. Politicians cannot allow such accusations – rooted in the toxic emotion of distrust – to harden into political beliefs.

It is the Government’s duty to respond. To do so effectively, it can start by remedying its failures in communication and work with businesses to find solutions within the framework of its global vision. This will diminish the belief that its reluctance means it has given up on its vision out of incompetence or malfeasance.

If it fully prepares for Brexit and communicates its opportunities – come what may in the negotiations – it can regain the momentum and fill any political vacuum. This approach will set the right tone, while bringing trust and hope against a climate of uncertainty.

The UK beckons its leadership to rise up and address the uncertainty which fosters distrust, threatens the economy, Brexit and, more importantly, our democracy.