Many in the anti-Brexit lobby are still trying to portray the vote to leave the European Union as the project of a very small number of Westminster elites. Carole Cadwalladr and her band of conspiracy theorists would have you believe that Dominic Cummings and a handful of his friends are single-handedly responsible for the country’s direction of travel (and everything else they deem wrong with the world), a pointless endeavour designed to benefit them only.
When we left the EU last week, that was only the beginning, not the end, of Brexit. You may not hear the word used by government ministers from now on, but the subsequent months and years will see us carve out our place in the world. And as the shape of Britain’s place in the world begins to become clear, the shape of the state will also change – a subject not always given the attention it deserves.
This is because, as Douglas Carswell recently pointed out on this site, the British state is filled with Guardianista quangocrats, whose presence in our institutions means that we get a left-wing agenda in almost every sphere of public policymaking, irrespective of the vote to leave or the Tory majority in parliament.
And this is especially apparent – and alarming – now, because this is the exact moment when we have a crucial opportunity to fundamentally change the way we do things in this country, to unleash economic growth, as well as the potential of every individual in the country, giving them the chance to take control of their own life.
There are broadly three points identified by those who want to see a shift from business as usual. First, we should focus on people’s priorities, not the blob of vested interests. Second, for a free market economy to succeed, everyone must have a shot, which means levelling up in areas that lack opportunity. Third, the state should help people on the margins take control of their lives, not tell capable citizens what to do. But these plans will require far-reaching reforms elsewhere in order to stand a chance of succeeding.
From the civil service to the supreme court, these plans are being drawn up by new young intellectuals who emerged throughout Brexit. But who are they?
In 2018, the Institute of Economic Affairs published an outline of what the much-fabled “Super Canada” Brexit might actually look like, called Plan A+. It addressed and provided a way forward on regulations, tariffs, immigration and even the enigmatic Irish border issue.
Co-written by Shanker Singham and Radomir Tylecote, it was branded “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” by Jacob Rees-Mogg and enjoyed the support of various prominent Brexiteers, including current cabinet ministers Priti Patel and Theresa Villiers. One might argue that it looks very similar indeed to the withdrawal agreement Boris Johnson negotiated several months later.
A few weeks later, Singham popped up once again to offer advice in the scenario that few foresaw at the time in which the Brexit deal failed to pass through parliament. He published A Better Deal – a detailed outline of ways in which the withdrawal agreement could be amended to improve its chances.
A Better Deal was informed by the advice of many at the IEA and elsewhere, including Victoria Hewson, and it was launched with the thumping endorsement of David Davis, former Brexit secretary, and Shailesh Vara, former Northern Ireland minister. Again, much of the content of that document seems to have been taken on board by those who are now very senior members of the government and is borne out by its current Brexit (and beyond) policy.
Other think tanks and organisations too will be influencing the future of post-Brexit Britain. In September last year, we at 1828 partnered with the Adam Smith Institute to release The Neoliberal Manifesto, which offers a blueprint for a freer, more prosperous Britain, and covers many areas that will be key in the months and years to come, from trade and immigration to taxation, lifestyle freedom and environmental policy.
Focusing specifically on reshaping the state post-Brexit, though, and you’ll find a few key people from across the British political landscape who are having a sizeable impact on the UK’s future path.
The first being perhaps the most obvious: Dominic Cummings. The maverick behind the Vote Leave campaign and former special adviser to Michael Gove while at the Department for Education, Cummings is now the prime minister’s chief special adviser at No 10 and is widely regarded as one of the best strategists in British politics. Known for his no-nonsense, direct approach, Cummings is preparing to light dynamite under the British state and reshape it in his image.
Shanker Singham, dubbed the “Brexiteers’ brain” in the Westminster bubble, was central to the campaign to address Theresa May’s original withdrawal agreement and is seen by many as one of the top trade experts in his field.
Radomir Tylecote co-wrote Plan A+ at the Institute of Economic Affairs, where his experience in innovation policy helped inform their influential work on regulatory autonomy and recognition. A political scientist and former Treasury advisor, we can expect to see more of his ideas on how to reshape the state post-Brexit.
Douglas Carswell, a former Tory and Ukip MP, is one of the key architects of the political environment that allowed for the Brexit vote in the first place. He openly admits that joining Ukip was a strategic, rather than emotional, choice designed to detoxify the party so they would be an asset, rather than a liability, in a referendum campaign. Carswell has close links to the current No 10 team and has long campaigned for a far-reaching shake-up of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the state.
Victoria Hewson, a technology and financial services lawyer, is also head of regulatory affairs at the Institute of Economic Affairs. Her expertise led her to become one of the few Brexit supporters in her field to clearly articulate the solutions to the Irish border dilemma.
Rob Colvile, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, is also increasingly known as the Tory party’s brain. Colvile played a vital part in the 2019 general election, helping to co-write the manifesto that led the Conservative party to their biggest victory since Margaret Thatcher.
Lee Rotherham has quietly-expressed but virtually unrivalled academic experience with respect to Britain’s relationship with the EU, whose services goes as far back as assisting the “Westminster group of eight” Eurorebels. Rotherham was also involved with Vote Leave, serving as its director of special projects.
There are many more of course, and we will be analysing their contributions in the coming months.