Observations of an ex pat: Sorry

To the Young People of Briton,

I am so sorry.  I really cannot apologise enough for landing you with a far-right, anti-EU government led by a delusional buffoon who appears to have abandoned reality in favour of policies which have more in common with blind religious faith than practical politics.

You may kindly respond: “It’s ok. You did what you could. It’s not your fault.” Thank you. That is very kind. But my generation (the baby boomers) collectively failed to do enough. If we had we would not be in the mess we are in today.  Furthermore, we would not be landing you – our children, grandchildren and future generations—with decades of debt coupled with a security and political mess.

Let’s just look at a few mathematical facts which our new prime minister whose single mindedness to ignore is matched only by his determination to exit the EU on 31 October regardless of the cost to the nation. Theresa May’s Brexit deal was bad enough. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research estimated that it would cost £100 billion a year, or £2,000 per British resident.

Still, her deal was nothing compared to Boris’s threatened No Deal. The respected UK Trade Policy Observatory has warned that the government is likely to have to cough up an extra £100 billion just to compensate businesses affected  by No Deal Brexit. This is before any account is taken of an anticipated fall in the value of the pound, increased holiday costs, damage to drug supplies and the NHS, drop in foreign trade investment, transport snarl-ups, increased tariffs, the end of EU regional grants and research money, inflation, security cooperation  cost of trade negotiations and the vital need for political and economic stability amongst our continental neighbours.

The Office of Budget Responsibility has already warned that the British economy is slowing down as foreign investors reluctantly accept that No Deal is now the most likely scenario. In fact, the OBR are predicting that if No Deal goes ahead the economy will shrink by two percent a year for the foreseeable future.

So what is our new prime minister’s response? Well, to start with he dismisses these expert reports as essentially fake news. Then he announces that instead of trying to adjust government spending to accommodate his political ambitions, he will increase it.

Here are just a few of Boris’s spending pledges which he has been throwing out like so much confetti: 20,000 more police officers at a cost of a minimum of £1 billion a year.  Cutting corporation tax from 17 percent (starting in in 2020) to £12.5 percent at a cost of £14 billion.  Raising the tax threshold for the wealthy at a cost of £20 billion.  Increased defence spending to deal with American pressure, the Russian threat problems with Iran and protection for an expanded global trade base. His opponent Jeremy Hunt put the bill at £25 billion. Boris has not demurred. More spending on education costing  £1 billion. An  indeterminate amount of money on the National Health Service and social care. All this to be added to the other figures already mentioned in this article and any number of other costs not so far listed.

Nobody disputes that money needs to be spent to correct the damage of nearly ten years of austerity. But what economists—in fact, almost everyone—cannot comprehend is from where the money is coming. Tax revenues in 2020 are projected at £811.4 billion . That is to pay for current government spending for 2020 of £847.6 ; leaving a $36.2 shortfall. In macro terms this is not a huge amount. It can reasonably be expected to be covered by borrowings on the international markets. But Borisnomics threatens to bump government spending by a staggering £141 billion– AT LEAST—at a time when his own economists are predicting a recession which could mean a drop in tax revenues of around another £170 billion.

So where will the money coming from? According to Boris, more borrowing. But there is a problem here. The three main credit agencies have already warned that if No Deal Brexit goes ahead they will downgrade Britain’s credit rating. This means that the interest that the government pays on its so far pays on its £1.2 triillion debt will go up, which, of course, means more cost.

This brings me back to the apology to British young people. To the people struggling to save money for a deposit on their first home or just able to make ends meet with in high-priced rented accommodation, sofa surfers, those forced to live in the parental home and young couples delaying starting a family until the country reaches Boris Johnson’s sunny uplands. They will be ones who will be stuck with the bill for generations to come. Their only hope is that Boris Johnson’s blind ideologically-inspired optimism will run into the reality brick wall of parliamentary and electoral arithmetic.

* Tom Arms is the American-born membership secretary for Tooting Lib Dems. His Observations of an Expat appears regularly on Lib Dem Voice and in a number of US newspapers. He is the author of “The Encyclopedia of the Cold War”.

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19 Comments

  • John Marriott 26th Jul '19 - 9:19am

    Don’t apologise to the ‘Young People of Briton(sic)’, Mr Arms. By the way is that anything to do with Ivanka Trump’s ‘United Kingston’?

    If as many of them had gone out to vote, probably for Remain in the 2016 Referendum as did for Corbyn’s Labour Party a year later, we probably wouldn’t be in the mess we are today.

    We patronise the young enough already. Let’s give them a little blame for a change. Yes, I was young once; but I’m older and hopefully wiser now, not that anyone seems to give a toss!

  • Not all Baby Boomers are selfish but a substantial minority perhaps even a majority of them are. That they are unconsciously selfish is their defining characteristic. Why because they don’t realise in the words of McMillan “most of our people have never had it so good” and your children and grand children will envy the live style they can only dream about. As the baby boomer generation travelled through history they effectively pulled up the ladder behind them. They now pontificate on how hard their lives had been at the start and through hard work how they have prospered, failing to understand by inflating house prices, increasing the cost of education, trashing pensions the opportunity of the young to follow their example is removed. Just to add a cherry on top of the cake they baked their progeny, they then voted to return to the 1950’s or beyond to make them feel relevant and powerful again. So yes Expats is right, so here goes “I’m sorry I didn’t do more for the young, what can I say, life got in the way and I didn’t realise how bad it would be for you”.

  • John Marriot
    More young people did turn out to vote in the EU referendum than in the 2017 general election. Corbyn did do a lot better than expected, but did not actually win, so your point is a little on the moot side.
    Personally, I’ve never got the idealisation of Youth. It’s a short. often erratic, phase of your life full of hormones, crushes, chasing each other about, parties, dancing, misdirected passions about music/art and lolling around in a kind languid stupor. All very charming but no basis for politics. Plus, of course, political movements focused on youth have a patchy record, to say the least.

  • Richard Underhill 26th Jul '19 - 11:21am

    “borrowings on the international markets” is needed. Lenders like to think that interest will be paid and repayment in full will be made at the agreed time.
    A PM who says that he does not want to pay his bills should be advised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the OBR of what the effect would be on interest rates or availability of funds.
    Inward investment is partially caused by access to the EU Single Market. Japanese car manufacturers are a good example, jumping over the common external tariff barrier.
    The Remain campaign in 2016 did not do enough about the risk to Honda, now a reality. The product was good quality, labour relations were good, but no other car company offered to buy the Honda plant in Swindon which is therefore closing with consequences for all staff and the local economy.

  • Bill le Breton 26th Jul '19 - 12:02pm

    If there is any generation to blame for the rise of Johnson it is the generation that spurned the values of the baby boomers and who wanted a smaller state which they sort to achieve through austerity and the belief in ‘balanced budgets’.

    I think we should look at the generation born between 1965 and 1970. These were the children of Mrs Thatcher – not literally, but people who were teenagers and sixth-formers during her premiership.

  • Worth pointing out I feel what time period is covered by the Baby Boomers
    Baby Boomers Baby Boomers are born between 1946 and 1964, and are called so because after WWII there was a huge surge in the birth rate. After the strict rules of their parents, many baby boomers rebelled in the 70s, and then became yuppies in the 80s. Because they grew up in a time of economic prosperity, some say that the negative traits of boomers are greed and materialism. However, they are known as ambitious and somewhat revolutionary compared to their parents.

    Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2018/01/29/generation-mean-baby-boomers-millennials-7267464/?ito=cbshare

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

  • Inter-generational name calling is basically illiberal. Sweeping statements about race, religion and gender fall into the same category.

  • Martin 26th Jul ’19 – 1:16pm……………Analysis of how people voted is that the over 65s were 64% for Brexit and 50 to 64s 60% for Brexit. All younger groups mostly opposed Brexit, with the youngest group 71% against Brexit. These are the statistics and as such are overall generalisations. I think it would not be Liberal to acknowledge the reality…………

    Reality? Think outside the white middle class bubble…

    What would you say to a 60 yo in rented accommodation (or low end terraced housing) with children in their 20/30s who have no hope of ever owning a house. They have suffered 5 years under a Tory/LibDem coalition who seemed more than eager to pursue austerity for it’s own sake; they see a LibDem treasury minister spending more time than the Tory Chancellor defending each and every cutback in social care and a LibDem leader who believes that a ‘bedroom tax’ is fair? They see their retirement age (like Catch22 missions) moving further away and their salaries as near as dammit, frozen.
    2015 offers more of the same and all the while the media explains how it is all down to the parasitic EU’s regulations.

    The result of the referendum was a close run thng but it would be naive to believe that the 5+1 years previous to 2016 didn’t have any effect.

  • Graham Jeffs 26th Jul '19 - 5:39pm

    Tom:

    I took the liberty of forwarding your article to some of my contacts – 71 of them.

    Possibly it encapsulates how dire is the stance of some, that I received a terse reply from one of them – who I have known for over 50 years – telling me to remove his email address from my lists. This guy clearly can’t do his sums, or doesn’t want to face reality – obviously being a retired chartered accountant hasn’t helped him!

    But over and above all else these people simply don’t want to acknowledge that there could possibly be another view. It baffles me.

  • Andrew Tampion 26th Jul '19 - 5:54pm

    Martin:
    “I readily understand that those of us in the older brackets find it discomforting to come to terms with the reality that it is our generation that has let down younger people and our children’s generation.”
    The problem with your argument is that it assumes that Brexit is bad for our Country and for Young People in particular. While this may be true it is the point in issue and therefore cannot be assumed.
    Suppose that an elderly Brexit supporter of honestly and sincerely believes that a Young Person who supports staying in the EU is mistaken. Are you really saying that such a Brexit supporter should vote for something that they believe will harm the Young Person merely because the Young Person wants them to?

  • The reason the youth vote is attractive to people with grand visions is that it represents an abstract idea that can be used to bolster claims to a historically determine “future”. It’s not really about concern for the actuality of youngsters as they are , but for the idea of youth as a symbol. But really the young are just old people in waiting and politics is about the present,

  • Steve Trevethan.
    That’s an interesting piece.

  • John Marriott 26th Jul '19 - 6:42pm

    According to Johnson, if the EU cuts up rough, we shall just go it alone and tell them to whistle for that £39 billion we promised to pay them. So, what will that do for our credit rating on the world’s money markets, when we go cap in hand, because, if we are to fulfil all those promises to farmers, fishermen, business etc., that additional money that the previous Chancellor has allegedly squirrelled away to turn on the good times again won’t be enough?

    Housing, or the unavailability of it, has featured in this thread. Well, isn’t retaining that EU money a bit like taking out a mortgage on a house, moving in and then informing your lender that you have decided not to pay the money back any more?

    I was born in 1943 so that makes me a pre baby boomer. In 1969 a three bedroomed house in Newark could have been mine with a deposit equivalent to around three months salary as a recently qualified teacher. Today, to acquire the keys of a similar house would probably require a deposit equivalent to over twelve months salary. Yes, housing is, of course, more expensive today, for a variety of reasons, the main one being supply and demand, together with our being brainwashed into believing that a rising housing market is a prime indicator of the buoyancy of the economy.

  • John Marriott 26th Jul ’19 – 6:42pm……..If we are to fulfil all those promises to farmers, fishermen, business etc., that additional money that the previous Chancellor has allegedly squirrelled away to turn on the good times again won’t be enough?…………

    On the BBC I heard a member of Johnson’s inner circle (I didn’t catch his name), explaining how Boris would be able to finance the massive intake of new police using money amassed by the last Chancellor.
    I was surprised that the interviewer didn’t point out that, as is usually the case, the ‘extra’ money has been spent umpteen times already. I’ve already heard ministers explaining that it could be used for ‘offsetting the Brexit hit”; ‘supporting the NHS’; ‘dealing with the outcome of the ‘green paper’ on adult care’, whenever that is released (after being ‘sat on’ for three years )..

    So adding the police to the list won’t make much difference.

    Abbott is rightly mocked for not knowing the cost of police but even she didn’t claim it would come out of imaginary money down the back of the sofa at No.11.

    BTW.I enjoyed the photo of HM meeting Johnson; her hand bag clearly on show…”I’d love to stay and chat to you Boris but I’m just off down to the post office to collect my pension; do some early Christmas shopping; feed the corgis” (pick any one)

  • Roger Cubberley 28th Jul '19 - 9:52am

    I’m not an ex pat, but lucky enough 40 years ago to buy an old gite in France where my wife and I go for about half the year. Born in 1947, I have witnessed the steady decline of Britain’s fortunes, and the value of the pound. One scapegoat after another….immigration, trade unions, immigration, trade unions, the EU etc etc. Ironically the only politician to mention our own failings….lack of investment, short termism, poor management is Johnson in 2013. So I apologise all the time to younger generations. It happened on my watch. And enough of my acquaintances of my generation are quite complacently oblivious to the impact of past failings on future generations.

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