Which domestic policies are being delayed because of Brexit?
Is Government doing anything that isn’t Brexit?
Before Christmas, I finally admitted that everything that isn’t Brexit is, in fact, Brexit. But New Year me isn’t satisfied with that answer.
How many domestic policies have actually been pushed back because of Brexit? I’ve been trying to pull together an updated list.
[If you don’t like lists, I’ve summarised what all this means in an IfG blog]
This is not easy — it’s hard to work out what the Government’s priorities actually are, let alone whether they’re being pursued. So I’m asking the internet for help. Here’s my list — what have I missed?
- *Last updated: 17 Feb**
A quick health warning: it is worth noting that Brexit is only part of the reason for some of these delays. Government prevarication on challenging issues is not a new phenomenon. Brexit has been a limiting factor in pushing forward the domestic policy; it’s now the limiting factor.
- NHS reform plan
- Local government financial settlement for 2019/20 (although only by a few days, in the end)
- Immigration White Paper
- Clean Growth Strategy: published in October 2017, having been initially promised to come at the end of 2016. But the Committee on Climate Change has said it lacked the policy detail needed to make change.
- Domestic abuse bill. Consultation on the bill finished in May, and campaigners were expecting a draft bill before Christmas. It will published instead on 21 Jan. We do not know, of course, how long it will be until it is actually introduced to Parliament.
- Social Care Green Paper: originally due Autumn 2017, continually pushed back in 2018, supposed to be published with the NHS reform plan, but still no sign…
- Spending Review 2019: Bloomberg reports that the starting gun for the 2019 SR will not be fired at the spring statement, as we might have expected. Something will have to happen this year to prepare budgets for 2020/21 — but it is not certain we’ll get more than that.
- Local Government fair funding review: currently running to government timetable — with initial settlements for 2020/21 due to be published in the spring — but local authorities wanted/needed clarity much sooner.
- Internet Safety White Paper: originally due before end 2018 — in September this was changed to ‘winter’.
- Public Service Ombudsman Bill: this draft bill was published in December 2016, and was scrutinised by the HCLG committee in March 2017, but is yet to be introduced to Parliament.
- Grenfell response: there has been slow progress on replacing cladding on other blocks (361 yet to be dealt with).
- Modernising Consumer Markets Green Paper: consultation closed in July, still no Government response.
- The UK Open Government Partnership National Action Plan for 2018–20 was due to be published last summer.
- Police funding formula reform: This is another one that has been perpetually delayed — not, initially because of Brexit). 2015 reform attempts were paused due to ‘errors’, but then progress appeared to have stalled after the 2017 election, with rumours that it had been scrapped. It is apparently now back on the cards as part of the 2019 Spending Review.
- Wylfa power station?: An interesting one this. Hitachi has now officially pulled out of building the new nuclear powerplant in Wales — but Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that Theresa May did not discuss it with him at their meeting last week. Brexit sucking the air out of diplomacy as well?
- Devolution framework: Back in February, then-MHCLG Secretary Sajid Javid said a new ‘framework’ for the Government’s approach to Englidh devolution was nearly finished. His successor, James Brokenshire, said in July it would be ready in ‘the coming months’. It has not yet appeared.
- Courts and Tribunals Estates Transformation: Consultation on ‘estates transformation’ (ie. increased use of video links, and court closures) closed in March, with no Government response yet.
- Higher Education funding: the Observer has named the Augar review of HE funding (due this spring) as a victim of current re-prioritisation exercises.
- **Special entry**UK Shared Prosperity Fund: I left this off the list, because it is a Brexit-related issue. But the delay to the publication of the consultation on this replacement to EU structural funds – which supports worse-off parts of the UK – is causing a real headache to people at a regional level trying to do any kind of strategic growth planning.
- The FT is reporting that some Eurosceptic backbenchers are threatening to vote against all non-Brexit Government legislation in protest, if they think the PM is moving towards a softer Brexit. That would put bills currently making their way through the Commons at risk: the Crime (overseas production orders) bill; the Mental capacity (amendment) bill; and the Tenant fees bill.
- Spending Review 2019: unlikely to be three years?
- Industrial Strategy: Council to check progress on goals was appointed in November. They are due to meet 3 times a year — so if there’s nothing from them by March/April, we should be worried.
- Universal Credit — although not exactly Brexit related
- Social Housing Green Paper: consultation concluded 6 November, no set date for government response.
- Letwin review of ‘build out’: Commissioned in 2017, Oliver Letwin published his final report on ‘build out’ (the gap between land allocated for house building and houses built) in October 2018. There is yet to be any response.
- Making Tax Digital: The controversial HMRC policy (making digital tax record-keeping and filing mandatory for all businesses) will come into force on April 1st. HMRC will have less capacity than originally anticipated to manage any hiccups.
- A twist! Major figures in the food and farming industry have asked Defra to delay consultations on a range of non-Brexit related issues, as they are entirely swamped by Brexit. Great story from Buzzfeed.
Speculation/other things to keep an eye on
- In November, Greg Clark promised a white paper on the future of the power sector in the ‘new year’ — a crucial bit of energy/climate policy.
- The NHS reform plan is out — but it was missing some detail, which it promised to fill in later. We need to watch out for the ‘workforce implementation plan’ (not due until after the SR) and the NHS National Medical Director’s Clinical Standards Review, which will look at some of the waiting times targets.
- Sajid Javid will be heavily distracted by the borders/immigration part of his remit, leaving policing left unattended to. This might mean: i.) further delays to the new police funding formula; ii). nothing major for police in the SR beyond the already-announced council tax precept; iii). no updates on the serious violent crime strategy
- In May, DfE Perm Sec Jonathan Slater asked for a ministerial direction: he wanted to delay the initial roll-out of T-levels to 2021, but Damian Hinds insisted on starting in 2021
- A couple of other housing consultations waiting for a Government response: i). longer tenancies in the private sector (consultation concluded 28 August); ii). leasehold reform (consultation concluded 26 November)
- HS2: We are expecting DfT to deposit further ‘additional provisions’ to the HS2 Phase 2a bill (currently in committee stage) ‘early this year’. Delays to this will mean the long progress of this bill will take even longer.
- An HMT consultation on Digital Competition closed on 7 December — not sure how much attention they are able to give it.
- A raft of measures were set in motion to curb the consistent rise in rough sleeping and homelessness more broadly since 2010 — the Homelessness Reduction Act came into force in April last year, and a rough sleeping strategy (along with a target to eliminate rough sleeping by 2027) was published in October. Those are all things that are happening, although it’s too early to judge their effect. But it will be worth keeping an eye on whether the milestones for that strategy are met.
- Local authorities are concerned that their already pressurized care providers could yet be left with large back-payments for ‘sleep-in’ subsidies — and that BEIS will have other priorities.
- A new ‘National Data Strategy’ was promised back in June, with a leader appointed to it in October. We would not expect to see any results yet, but it will be one to keep an eye on over the year: joining up data across Government will be key to managing Brexit, deal-or-no-deal. But ‘data’ has a tendency to fall into the ‘important but boring’ camp that gets de-prioritised…
Things that are happening
A steady stream of announcements have continued on gov.uk: a new taskforce for economic crime, for example, or the clean air strategy. Some pronouncements of ministerial priorities have been embarrassingly marginal — county flags, or children’s activity passports, anyone?
Attempting to sort the wheat from the chaff, here’s some things of import that seem to be moving forward:
- Teacher recruitment and retention strategy: Not only have the Department of Education managed to get this strategy published in a timely fashion, it also seems to have been broadly well received. See a good summary here.
- Universal credit: although perpetually ‘at risk’, Amber Rudd has quickly pressed on with making some changes — including starting the migration of existing benefit claimants onto UC with a 10,000 people pilot, and removing the ‘two-child’ limit (for children born before the policy was announced.
- The Integrated Communities Action Plan was published on 9th Feb, after consultation closed in June.
- The waste strategy probably falls somewhere between the two stools — this has clearly been a ministerial priority since Michael Gove watched Blue Planet.
- Childhood obesity: a consultation on restricting the sale of unhealthy foods opened this week.