On Twitter this morning, I mentioned that I had a problem with the government spending half a billion pounds (which is what Davis revealed yesterday in terms of what the government is planning to spend in preparation for Brexit) on a procedure that was supposed to give us £350 million a week back. I got some responses from Brexiteers along the lines of “shame your maths are so poor”. Their point was that half a billion quid isn’t much to spend in order to save circa 18 billion a year. Here is my retort to this line of thinking.
My first point is, it’s about principle. Brexit was never sold to us during the referendum campaign as something we would have to pay up front for – in fact, for a long time afterwards, the idea that we would pay nothing up front was a guiding principle amongst Brexiteers. So, I have a problem with the very notion of having to pay anything at all to prepare for this thing that was supposed to be a money spinner for the country, just as a concept in and of itself, whatever the upside that might follow. Particularly as a lot of the money seems to be required to erect barriers to trade, the opposite of what was supposed to happen post-Brexit.
Secondly, since we’re talking about cost and benefit analysis here, let’s do this right. Say someone tells you that you can make millions of pounds, guaranteed, with no money up front. All you have to do is sign a piece of paper allowing them to operate on your behalf in order for them to make this money for you. Let’s say you trust this person and then go ahead and sign. A little while later, he comes to you and says that, whoops, he is actually going to need a fair amount of money up front as a capital investment. But not to worry – the profits will soon roll in. You ask him if this is the only amount of money he will require from you prior to the windfall heading your way – he responds in an equivocal manner, alluding to the idea that he very well might need to ask you for some more capital at some point in the future, all before you get to see any return. You ask him how much more he might require – he shrugs and says he doesn’t know. Could be thousands, could be millions. We’ll see. At this point, if you weren’t questioning the deal, you’d be a bit thick.
Finally, my main problem with the whole idea of spending half a billion pounds preparing for Brexit is that it is being supported by small state Brexiteers who supposedly saw Brexit as a way to spend less public money. To have to spend money in order to save money seems weirdly Marxist to me. But maybe that’s just me.