By Richard Pickering, Head of Futures Strategy
Jexit In a statement that seems to have surprised some of his colleagues, Jeremy Corbyn has set out a view that a Labour Brexit would mean leaving the single market, ‘The single market is dependent on membership of the EU’. It seems that this viewpoint is not shared by either Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, ‘I don’t accept that that’s necessary at all’, or Chuka Umunna ‘taking single market and customs union membership off the table in the Brexit talks is the Tory position; it should not be Labour’s’. In a recent survey by the British Chambers of Commerce, only 2% of British businesses favoured leaving both the single market and customs union; whereas an Ipsos Mori poll shows that 49% (vs 41%) of the general public favour single market access over immigration controls.
Pseudo-public spaces Section 106 agreements and more general planning policies have been used to good effect to deliver new public spaces. However, a critical report by Guardian Cities points to the rise of ‘pseudo public’ (actually private) open spaces, and the obscure nature of their regulation. In doing so, they have published a map of all such spaces in London and interviewed landowners regarding the policies that they apply to them. The Mayor will reportedly back a requirement for greater openness in the new London Plan. But how easy will this be to implement in practice, and is it in fact desirable? Many private estates are policed for the benefit of the tenants and their licensees, with standards set higher than general legislation. As more large scale semi-private campuses emerge, we will, as a society, need to make choices between civil liberties and the enhancements to space that commercial ownership provides.
The Faraday Challenge For those whose last experience of batteries was the regular flow of AAs needed to power your Walkman, it may come as a surprise that the UK is investing £246m in battery technology. For those charting the rise of Elon Musk, there will be no surprise. Essentially mobile power generators, batteries will be a key technology in fields such as automated cars and the storage of green power. The government funding announced this week includes a competition to establish a new £45m virtual ‘Battery Institute’ and a new National Battery Manufacturing Development facility, expected to be operational by early 2020. That would seem to be an attractive tenant. Greg Clark describes the project as an ‘epochal transformation’, stating that in a world where energy is clean and abundant, it would no longer need to be rationed or controlled.
Food and farming The UK’s food supply is in the spotlight this week, with a paper published by the Science Policy Research Unit stating that ‘the implications of Brexit for food are potentially enormous’. Big issues cited in the report include: legislation, standards and subsidies. About 75% of all land in the UK is associated with agriculture, and a large portion of that is for meat and dairy production – a significant source of carbon emissions. The report calls for more land to be used for crops directly intended for human consumption. The imposition of 20%+ tariffs and the loss of agricultural subsidies dominate discussions; the EC estimating that if subsidies are withdrawn, UK rural land values will drop by 30%. However, could a longer term restructuring of our food supply chains, with a currency driven emphasis on ‘buy British’ (currently more than 50% imported), provide a counter-balancing boost to rural land values?