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Developing a post-Brexit economic strategy

April 2017

Phil Mullan and Mindy Gofton introduced a discussion on how to transform the zombie economy

Phil MullanIn January this year the Conservative Government launched its ‘modern’ industrial strategy to make Britain fit for the twenty-first century. Many welcomed the fine words about the government ‘stepping up to a new, active role’ to raise productivity across every sector and in every corner of the country. This focus on productivity is well justified and long overdue. Increasing what each worker can produce in the same time is the only durable source for increasing people’s living standards. Britain’s productivity remains at pretty much the same level it had reached in 2007 and is well below that of most of its developed competitors. There is much to be done.


Creative DestructionIn the previous Coalition government former Chancellor George Osborne had made similar promising noises about rebalancing the economy and a ‘march of the makers’, but little changed in practice. Can we expect better from the new government? Much of what has been suggested so far is not new.


Kirsty StylesDoes this revival of industrial strategy offer a more effective escape from low growth? Thirty years ago industrial policy was universally rejected as the hubris of governments thinking they could plan for a better economy. The failure then of ‘picking winners’ is a lesson everyone says they have learnt from. Can the outcome be different this time? Is there an appropriate mix between state and market for reviving the economy? Would more infrastructure spending, or funding of technical training provide a successful catalyst for economic growth?


The Green Paper included an explicit commitment to drive economic growth across the whole country. Regional disparities are wider in Britain than in other western European nations, and these divergences are wider now than in the 1990s. Can the pledges made help cities and regions lagging behind London and the national average close their productivity gaps? What prospect is there that the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine will become more real?


Mindy GoftonOr is the rehabilitation of industrial policy simply making a virtue out of existing state support for the economy? All major industries are now deeply involved with and dependent on government activities. Does the new enthusiasm for industrial policy risk more propping up of weak existing businesses? Maybe a period of creative destruction would help, replacing zombie businesses with some dynamic new sectors? Join the discussion on how best we can promote growth.


Some background readings

Inclusive growth in Greater Manchester: an agenda for the new Mayor, Joseph Rowntree Foundation 24 January 2017

Go for Growth, Institute of Ideas Economy Forum, 30 March 2017

Why it’s time to slay the ‘zombie economy’, Mick Hume, spiked 30 March 2017

Industrial strategy 'must help' UK creative industries, BBC Business News, 15 April 2017



Cross Street ChapelIn the main hall of Cross Street Chapel, Cross Street, Manchester M2 1NL. If you're familiar with the area, it's diagonally opposite the Royal Exchange Stage Door.

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