The front page of today’s Economist is dedicated to a story about what would happen if Britain left the EU.
I can easily understand the attraction for people and businesses in Greater London (a.k.a. South-East England): London is to a large extent the capital of the world, attracting headquarters, finance and court battles from a lot of global companies and billionaires. To some extent London is to the world what Switzerland is to Europe.
The kind of policies that would suit London would include almost unlimited immigration (because the high cost of living would ensure that most people would only want to go there for a decade or so), low corporation tax (because it’s better to get 1% tax from all global companies that to get 30% from a select few), privatised health care and universities (because of the number of temporary immigrants and because of the generally high salaries in London), and leaving the EU and getting free-trade agreements with the rest of the world (a position called “Freeport Ho!” in Going South).
On the other hand, the ideal policies for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and non-London England are in general quite different. In general, social-democratic policies (such as though pursued by the SNP in Scotland) would probably be quite popular, and it would make good sense to be a full part of the European Union.
The distance between the needs of London and the rest is so great that it gets incredibly hard to govern all of the UK efficiently.
As I wrote in a recent blog post, “[t]he current state of affairs is a bit like if the Switzerland and France had formed a union at some point and had moved the capital, the company headquarters, the politicians and the media companies to Zürich, with the result that both parts of the union were being run based on what was best for Zürich. I doubt most of France would have flourished in such a scenario.”
Unfortunately, very few people seem to be interested in independence for London (although Kelvin MacKenzie is getting close). Fortunately, we have the option of making Scotland independent in two years’ time, which at least solves the problem up here.