We have the right Prime Minister to guide our country out of the EEC. Before she embarks on the biggest post war upheaval in our country’s history, the Prime Minister needs to make four major changes to our existing governance arrangements to prepare us for the turbulence that will come with Brexit.
The PM needs all the firepower she can muster to build a new relationship with Europe, keep our economy at home steady throughout, let alone grow, as well as ready the country to engage the wider trading world. This no mean feat is why we believe she should consider four, specific changes to how government works.
May’s closest team of advisors have shown a powerful ability to protect her and keep a tight control on her government. When we finally exercise Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty we will enter into a sustained period of the unknown, without making four key changes to how Whitehall currently works, the level of control being exercised now by Number 10 may prove impossible to sustain and lead to damaging consequences for UK Plc should her inner circle not recognise this in time and make arrangements to properly delegate decision making.
Below are my four suggested changes that should be implemented in the next 6 weeks:
The PM needs to restructure her Cabinet.
It now needs to be broken into three. The first, a “Brexit” Cabinet subcommittee, to enable the PM to lead the negotiations from the front so as to maintain confidence at home and abroad. This smaller group of cabinet members can deal with key areas pertaining to Brexit and respond swiftly to the cut and thrust of the negotiations. David Davis will be a capable and loyal General by the PM’s side. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will be pivotal, he needs to evaluate every implication to our economy, Ben Gummer and the Civil Service need to forecast and advise on how we will manage the changes to come. Andrea Leadsom also needs to be part of the team to make sure our farmers and fishing fleets are protected and Amber Rudd needs to make sure we have the control over our borders that the current perceived lack of contributed to Brexit. After the deals are done, David Davis can take the lead and focus on implementing the changes across Whitehall freeing the PM to move to the next stage.
A second, equally important, Cabinet subcommittee is required, one that will focus on post Brexit trade. The PM will need to lead this work once our exit is agreed but until then it should be chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Foreign and Trade Secretaries, need to be a part of this to concentrate on building up our trading alliances of the future. If we are to enjoy a period of transition, we will only avoid the cliff edge of exit, time will still be of the essence in securing new trade deals. Even with friendly countries we will still see a delay when it comes to entering into new agreements. There will be no instant pudding for trade. Post 2019 this will need all the energy and leadership shown regarding our Brexit negotiations in order to keep our economy safe and provide for growth.
Appoint a Deputy
The third major decision must be to appoint a Deputy Prime Minister. While most political energy is already focused on Brexit and building new trading partnerships, we cannot underestimate the need for strong leadership to keep the home fires burning and prevent our economy drifting. We have too many economic and social issues to deal with for us to find the rest of government falls into political and economic paralysis from the end of march.
Winston Churchill had the wisdom to realise he could not run the war and the economy at home in 1940, he invited Atlee into a war cabinet. I am not suggesting Mrs May invite Jeremy Corbin to be her deputy, that would be seriously counterproductive. However, Sir Michael Fallon, a seasoned media performer who is unlikely to be a political rival to her, could be appointed as Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for leading a third Cabinet subcommittee covering the day to day running of UK Plc, Health, Home office, Justice, Education, Defence, Business as well as maintenance of the Union.
Devolve more to Local Government.
Last but not least, May must clear the decks of all Whitehall responsibilities that can be devolved. This should not be about saving money but releasing capacity in the civil service. The savings from efficiencies found should benefit local government. The PM should hand over control of as many services as she can from Jobs Centres, health budgets (like Manchester), probation services to more decisions over highways. It is vital that life carries on and Whitehall will be too preoccupied by events in Europe to ensure this. Whereas this fourth change will not only protect services during Brexit but bring decision making closer to the people and answer the call local authorities have long been making.
We cannot underestimate the level of work that is now needed of Westminster and our politicians. We must make these changes now to ensure that the next ten years are not lost because we did not anticipate the size and scale of change, or because our politicians were too naive to admit it.
We have the right person to lead us, these final changes in how Whitehall can support May and her Ministers will help secure the promises of benefits from Brexit for us all.