As the Brexit crisis moves step by step nearer to some kind of resolution – although exactly whether this will entail a Deal agreed with the EU by the 31st October still remains unclear – political and media attention becomes ever more focused upon immediate events, and increasingly myopic.
What were the underlying causes of the vote for Brexit, how exactly it is that we arrived at the current impasse, and what are the major dilemmas and choices that will present themselves to UK governments after Brexit, are questions of existential significance for British politics, that are currently kept at the margins the daily soap opera unfolding in Downing Street and Westminster.
In this context we are delighted to be able to publish the text of a major lecture delivered recently at Cambridge by Philip Rycroft, who was – until 30th October 2018 – the Permanent Secretary for the UK Government’s Department for Exiting the EU. During the course of his wide-ranging career as a civil servant, Philip became one of the leading sources of understanding and leadership in relation to devolution and wider constitutional questions within Whitehall.
In this lecture, he offers a rich and fascinating analysis of how it is that we have got to where we now are, exploring in depth the politics of the Coalition government led by David Cameron after 2010 and the unforeseen consequences of some of its major policy decision, including austerity. He examines too the inability to learn the lessons of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and apply them to the Referendum campaign of 2016.
Philip Rycroft also lifts our sights from the current maelstrom and offers a lucid and insightful account of the principal challenges which the next stage of the Brexit process will bring to the fore. And he offers some salutary thoughts on the intense pressures and sharp conflicts which this subsequent phase is likely to generate for the domestic union.
This lecture was delivered on 3rd October 2019 in Cambridge by Philip Rycroft, in his inaugural public event as distinguished honorary researcher at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge.
Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy