National Institute Economic Review

Updating security and defence policy

Threats to the security of the UK are evolving with the changing nature of conflict and balance of power in the world. They are multiple and fragmented, and domestic and online as well as overseas in nature: principally state-based threats such as posed by Russian activity; terrorism; cyber-attacks; and serious organised crime. To respond, the United Kingdom will need flexible capabilities aimed at fostering infrastructural and societal resilience as much as conventional defence.

Reorienting foreign policy

After Brexit, the UK must show that it has a voice. It will need to re-earn international respect, and in particular establish the concept of a ‘global Britain’ on the basis of performance, not rhetoric. That means re-establishing a strong network of relationships around the world in support of its security and economic health, but also continuing to play a leading role in support of the international rules-based order.

Developing trade in services

Services are simultaneously the most important sector of the UK economy and the sector facing the biggest challenge as a result of Brexit. The prospective departure from the European Single Market reduces the UK to the status of ‘3rd country’ in respect of services. Accessing the internal market will depend on both subjective and objective conditions that differ from sector to sector, requiring detailed and highly specific arrangements for such industries as aviation and financial services.

Developing trade

The UK faces no easy options in determining how to develop its approach to international trade post-Brexit. If it finally decides to leave the European Customs Union and Single Market, it faces the possibility either of simply crashing out of the EU without a deal; trying to form market-access agreements and Free Trade Areas (FTAs) with the EU and other countries; or unilaterally reducing tariffs and liberalising trade with all countries. Each course raises significant practical difficulties, and entails major disadvantages compared with staying in the Customs Union and Single Market. 

Supporting dynamic economic adjustment

Economic policymaking in the UK has historically focussed more on the demand side than on the supply side of the economy. Yet it is on the supply side – the way in which an economy adapts to change while growing productive capacity on a sustainable basis – that medium- to long-term economic performance largely depends. There is an urgent need now to rebalance policy by focussing, in particular, on measures to enhance labour-force productivity, including radically enhanced support for training and skills development. 

Maintaining stable macroeconomic conditions

The UK economy faces more than usually uncertain times. Outside the European Union, and in an increasingly  challenging  global environment characterised by ageing populations, climate change, populism, protectionism, and more, the country needs to chart a new course. This may well require policymakers to consider unconventional approaches to monetary and fiscal policy and, at the very least argues for important modifications of the current policy regime, including the autonomous mandate of the Bank of England. 

Introduction to National Institute Economic Review no 250

Regardless of the particular form that Brexit ultimately takes, the UK faces an unprecedented set of political, economic, and social challenges. While the causes are many and complex, they amount to a crisis of confidence and popular trust that has overturned the normal logic of political practice and policymaking. The national interest demands a strategy for the decades ahead, capable of putting the country back on its feet.

Beyond Brexit: a programme for UK reform

We not only live in interesting times but also dangerous ones. The weaknesses of the post-war consensus on macroeconomic control was laid bare by Dow’s (1964) magisterial analysis and the subsequent implosion of demand management in the 1970s (see Blackaby, 1978; and Britton, 1991). It is becoming clear that we have now also lived through a near break-down of the liberal rules-based consensus that has dominated the subsequent period of policy making. 

Distinguishing between imports for domestic use and for re-exports: a novel method illustrated for the Netherlands

Global trade in the 21st century is characterised by complex value chains. Successful exporters usually rely on quality imports, and exported goods cross borders many times before reaching their final consumer. This poses challenges to economic measurement as well as policymaking because it becomes difficult to characterise the true interdependencies between countries. Currently, estimates of the share of imports from a trade partner destined for re-exports, and the share used in the domestic economy, are crude at best. We develop a novel approach to estimate these shares.

Exploring the link between economic complexity and emergent economic activities

Recent studies have shown a strong link between the complexity of economies and their economic development. There remain gaps in our understanding of the mechanisms underpinning these links, in part because they are difficult to analyse with highly aggregated, official data sources that do not capture the emergence of new industrial activities, a potential benefit from complexity.