Brexit Britain probably won’t be a Singapore-on-Thames

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 11, 2019

The UK general election is, by some accounts, a referendum on leaving the EU and I’ve been thinking a lot about Britain as a Singapore-on-Thames.

The idea has been floating around for a while, with ardent Breiteers suggesting that it’s Europe that has held back Britain’s buccaneering boldness.

Unsurprisingly, even Anglophile countries — Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden — have been unnerved by talk of a Singapore-on-Thames, built on the premise that watering down Euro-regulations would unleash competitive animal spirits. Not too long ago, a European Brexit negotiator was quoted to say: “The UK is too big and too close to the continent, it could be too successful”.

Could it?

Consider a letter recently published in the FT letter. It’s by Tony Mayer, in Haydon Wick, Wiltshire, in the UK.

“…Singapore’s success reflects its history and geography: a small island without a geographical hinterland — so, as the late Lee Kwan Yew said, “we have to have a global hinterland”- coupled with an advantageous position astride trade routes. Its size and location give it an agility that larger countries do not enjoy. This is enhanced by a technocratic but highly interventionist government — anathema to the Tory right — which has a long-term vision coupled with a rapidity of execution…”

Quite so.

Is government interventionism going to rule in the Brexit era? Will Boris Johnson and the Conservatives — traditionally a party of small government — really take Lee Kwan Yew as role model?

It’s one of the many inchoate aspects of the way Brexit has been sold.