Following the appointment of Sajid Javid as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I have written a letter calling on him to protect the British economy from Brexit and to ensure it works for all Britons, not just the richest.
The letter sent to Sajid Javid last night is as follows:
Congratulations on your appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
You are taking over at a critical juncture for HM Treasury and for our economy. The prospect of Brexit is already doing real damage to the economy before we have even left the European Union.
And we continue to be saddled with a dysfunctional, unequal economy in which too many people can’t get on and live a secure, happy and fulfilling life. Those who put in the graft are not properly rewarded in 2019. These problems have been severely exacerbated since your party took office in 2015. Therefore, I sincerely hope that as Chancellor you will break from that track record and address these problems.
Brexit and the economy
While you and the new Prime Minister have expressed optimism about Britain’s prospects after Brexit, the country’s foremost economic analysts – and indeed the raw facts – leave no doubt that Brexit is harming our economy in the here and now.
As of this month, the Pound has lost 17% of its value against the dollar since the 2016 referendum. And the prospect alone that a no-deal Brexit might crystallise under a Boris Johnson premiership sent it to its lowest point of 2019 in June.
The National Institute for Economic and Social Research published a study just this week showing that economic growth has stalled and there is around a one-in-four chance that the economy is already in a technical recession. This comes after the CBI found that our manufacturing industries’ domestic and export orders fell at the fastest rate since the financial crisis in the three months to July.
Surely these indisputable facts must alert you to the serious threat Brexit poses to the UK’s economic wellbeing. Even with a mere 99 days to October 31st, I urge you to act in the country’s interest and push to give the people a final say over Brexit, with Remain on the ballot.
Poverty and inequality
While Brexit is undeniably putting our economy under duress, the factors that largely led to the Brexit vote in the first place are still in place. Are you able to assure the British public that, as Chancellor, you will work to undo the financial squeeze families face up and down the country?
Under your party’s watch, poverty has gone up. The latest available data shows that there are 14.2 million people living in poverty, including 4.5 million children. This is up from 13.4 and 4.2 million respectively in 2015.
Meanwhile, your predecessors have failed to oversee growth in all regions and have not properly invested in the skills of our workforce. The result is that instead of overtaking the EU, like your party claims we will, we are falling behind it: according to Eurostat, of the ten poorest northern European regions, six are in the UK. Our productivity is so poor that it takes the average UK worker five days to produce what his or her German or French counterpart does in four.
During the Conservative leadership race, you proposed scrapping the top income tax rate, a measure that will only benefit the richest. As Chancellor, can you reassure the public that you will prioritise the needs of all Britons – not just the top 1% of earners?
Will you follow the Liberal Democrats’ call for significant investment in public services, skills, and the infrastructure – physical and digital – that our regional economies need to thrive? Will you take action to put the UK at the forefront of the green economy? Above all, will you act to ensure that everyone has a stake in the new industries and technologies which are emerging? At the heart of this must be the vigorous prosecution of a proper industrial strategy
I look forward to hearing your responses to these critical matters, and I hope you will work with us for a prosperous economy that works for all. Good luck!
Chuka Umunna MP
Liberal Democrat Treasury and Business Spokesperson