Opinion and Editorial from the Policy Exchange team.
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John Blake — Policy Exchange’s Head of Education and Social Reform — enters the ongoing discussion about the ‘ever-vexed’ topic of university access. He argues that, regardless of the rising number of young people going on to higher education, ‘an 18-year-old from a disadvantaged background, indeed from any background, should face a choice beyond either a university place they may not really want (even on the generous loan terms we have) and nothing’.
Alistair Burt, the Foreign Office Minister, has been engaging with political Islamists during his recent tour of the Middle East. Sir John Jenkins — former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and co-author of the Government’s Muslim Brotherhood Review of 2015 — looks at the lamentable historical record of such attempts at outreach, what to expect from them and how they could be improved.
Policy Exchange Chief Economist – and former Special Adviser to the Northern Ireland First Minister – Graham Gudgin responds to Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s proposals for the Irish Border to be moved to the Irish Sea after Brexit. Gudgin states that this new tough line from Dublin on the Irish Border is an unhelpful change of direction on an already complex issue — and that Varadkar’s decision to cease work on a potential electronic Border is particularly unwelcome. Moreover, his call in Belfast for the UK to negotiate a bespoke customs unions deal with the EU would require a special dispensation from the EU to allow the UK to agree new trade deals with third countries. This would be a major departure from EU practice — and is unlikely to be agreed.
Michael Taylor — Policy Exchange’s Economics Research Fellow — considers whether it’s right to assume that migration has a positive effect on productivity and living standards. He assesses the UK’s recent experience in terms of population expansion and the growth rate of GDP per head, before concluding that what ultimately matters is living standards, and that the UK’s performance has been ‘disappointing in recent years’.
Warwick Lightfoot — Policy Exchange’s Director of Research and Head of Economics and Social Policy — reflects on the latest reports from the United States, which show that its economy continues to expand steadily while unemployment continues to fall and the number of jobs increases. He contends that on the estimates given, the American economy ‘is at full employment and policy makers should be considering removing sources of stimulus from aggregate monetary demand, rather than looking to increase demand’.
Former leading Irish Ambassador Ray Bassett — now Policy Exchange’s Senior Fellow for EU Affairs — examines the state of play in Brexit negotiations so far. Dr. Bassett notes that little progress has been made on key three issues that are holding up the negotiations – reciprocal rights of EU and UK citizens, the Brexit Divorce Bill and the Irish border. However, he suggests that there is less unanimity in the EU27 position than appears on surface and that the new Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, may dissent from the official EU position on the need to establish a customs border. Ultimately, as negotiations continue, the power of decision will shift from Brussels to Berlin, suggesting that pragmatism and self-interest may prevail, with a good trading relationship prioritised over the desire to punish the UK for leaving.
Hannah Stuart — Co-head of Policy Exchange’s Security and Extremism unit — analyses the High Court’s rejection of a legal challenge against the government’s counter-radicalisation strategy, Prevent, and its delivery IN higher education institutions. She explains why the ruling ‘highlights issues that are central not only to tackling terrorism in the UK, but also to challenging the extremist ideologies used to legitimise terrorism’.
Mike Taylor — Policy Exchange’s Economics Research Fellow — reflects on the IMF’s recent downgrading of its 2017 GDP forecast for the UK from 2 per cent to 1.7 per cent, which coincided with its upgrading of its euro area forecast from 1.7 per cent to 1.9 per cent. Pointing out that the areas are in different stages of their economic cycles, he concludes that ‘structurally, the UK is in better shape to deal with the bumps in the road ahead’.
School budgets are now a matter of urgent concern — but in seeking savings, are schools making the best choices? Are school and system leaders thinking radically enough about how their organisations can change to meet the core needs of children in education? John Blake and Mark Lehain of Policy Exchange’s Education Unit — former teachers with two decades of front-line experience between them — offer suggestions, and seek the views of parents, teachers, governors, and other interested parties.
Warwick Lightfoot — Policy Exchange’s Director of Research and Head of Economics and Social Policy — reflects on ongoing debate in the States about the trend rate of growth and the relative performance of the US economy. He argues that while America retains great relative strengths, it is ‘not immune from the structural impediments that hinder other advanced economies with developed welfare states’.