The liberating policy agenda that will put Britain on the right track

Ben Ramanauskas

June 24, 2019

Theresa May’s reign of error is nearly at an end. As such, we are now being subjected to a contest that will not only decide the leader of the Conservative party but also the next prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Those who vied for the top job (or at least pretended to in order to get a cushy job in the next cabinet) set out their stalls. However, despite promises of delivering Brexit, the final two are still being pretty vague about what they would actually do if they got into No 10 Downing Street.

As I am not a member of any political party, my opinion counts for very little. Nevertheless, below are the policy positions that any future prime minister should implement.

First, there is obviously Brexit. It’s probably the biggest issue facing our country since the second world war and its aftermath in terms of our place in the world. It’s important that we get it right.

There will be a temptation for it to become all-engrossing for the new prime minister: one of the upsides of May’s mishandling of the situation was that it prevented her from implementing too many of her damaging policies.

She still managed to sneak in energy price caps and lots of nanny state nonsense, but we were thankfully spared from the rest of her attempts to meddle in the economy.

Hopefully, her successor will be able to deal with Brexit in a sensible way. It’s essential that an agreement is reached with the EU that respects the result of the referendum and allows the UK to pursue its own path while also enjoying frictionless access to the single market.

As I have previously explained on this site, rejoining EFTA would be the best solution.

The next most pressing issue is housing. There is a housing crisis in this country, which means that people are spending huge amounts of money on rent each month and while the dream of homeownership for young people is being killed.

Not only does this create misery and increase the cost of living for young people, it is also very bad news for the economy. As recently pointed out by the Resolution Foundation, the high price of housing is preventing young people from changing jobs or moving to major cities where the best jobs are.

This lowers productivity and, as a result, hampers economic growth and living standards.

Our housing crisis is largely due to stamp duty, coupled with a very restrictive planning system. The next prime minister needs to abolish stamp duty and liberalise the planning system.

This is the only way that we will end the housing crisis and make renting and home ownership affordable again.

Then there is the war on drugs. Prohibition is expensive to enforce, disproportionately impacts young people and ethnic minorities, punishes people who need help, and in many cases kills people.

Legalising and regulating drugs so that people receive a quality-controlled product and a safe dose is the only way to keep young people who are only trying to have a good time safe.

What’s more, providing safe spaces for consumption and help for addicts is far more humane than locking them up at the taxpayers’ expense or allowing them to die on the streets or in public toilets from an overdose.

It will also take the power away from the criminal gangs that have been blighting many of our cities and fuelling the increase in violent crime.

Some of the candidates have spoken about the tax system, promising to cut the basic rate of income tax. While ensuring that people get to keep more of their own money is incredibly important, there are other tax cuts which should be made which will be less popular but better for the economy.

Anybody who wants to become the next prime minister needs to commit to scrapping and reducing any tax that targets investment.

As such, corporation tax needs to be slashed and stamp duty on shares, capital gains tax, and dividends tax should be abolished entirely.

This will lead to greater investment which means higher productivity. Increased productivity means cheaper products, higher wages, economic growth, and a better standard of living.

Taxes should not just be cut: the entire tax system needs to be simplified. It is far too long and complicated. This allows the very rich to avoid paying what they ought and also distorts economic activity.

A flatter and simpler system with lower taxes would not only help individuals and small businesses, it would also bring in more revenue for the Treasury to spend on essential public services.

Finally, there is transport. The transport infrastructure in many areas of the country is in dire need of improvement.

And rather than wasting £100 billion on HS2, the government should instead invest in the railways between our major cities and their surrounding towns and villages.

This will increase economic growth in regions around the country and help to revitalise many of our stagnating towns and cities.

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list of the problems that the new prime minister will have to tackle. But a leader who deals with our most pressing issues smartly and effectively will be credited for years to come.


Written by Ben Ramanauskas

Ben Ramanauskas is a research economist at Oxford University and a former adviser to the International Trade Secretary.


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