The government eventually told us after the last Steel crisis that they would be formulating an industrial strategy for Britain. This was published in late 2017, and despite arguing that, ‘It sets out how we are building a Britain fit for the future.’ – it currently remains unclear what it is, except that it seems to involve exiting from manufacturing altogether.
The chart below shows that among advanced economies Britain is in a class of its own regarding manufacturing decline: and a class that indicates clearly that this has nothing to do with the EU. Half of the countries listed on the chart are EU members, yet none has such a low manufacturing base, or one which has declined faster.
British government dogma that the market will provide is the only plausible explanation for the steep decline. It is worrying indeed that with one year until Brexit we rely on a so-called industrial policy that appears to rely on nothing other than belief in ‘the market’ – but now with pre Brexit chaos and ineptitude as additional features.
In this context, yesterday’s excellent article by Will Hutton on the GKN takeover is all the more disturbing. It proves the wisdom of a blunt Yorkshireman who told the accountant of his family company to shut up. “Thou’s nowt but t’counter”.
Would that he were advising the government…