Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

The Chairman’s New Year's Message for 2022

Its high taxes and high inflation which threaten Boris' premiership, not wine and cheese parties and expensive wallpaper. 

Ladies, and Gentleman, Bruges Group Members, Welcome to 2022.

Well, we are still waiting to get Brexit done.

We have paid our £40 billion voluntary exit fee some years ago, but the European Court of Justice still holds sway over parts of the United Kingdom. And we haven't got control of our borders yet. Our gallant Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has piloted a new immigration bill through Parliament, but there remains a thicket of EU retained law which we need to weed out if we are truly to get control of our borders and be able to thwart a judiciary to whom Brexit remains anathema.

I, like many of you, greatly regret the recent resignation of Frosty, our Brexit Secretary. And sorry, but I am not buying the story that he resigned over Covid restrictions. The extent or otherwise of Covid restrictions is a day-to-day matter. I think it's much more likely that he resigned over changes to his negotiating brief on the Northern Ireland Protocol and the apparent decision, by the Prime Minister himself, that the threat to remove the Protocol in its entirety should be taken off the table.

As EU law holds sway over Northern Ireland, the Protocol as it stands makes the European Court of Justice the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland as it is for the Republic of Ireland in EU matters. Northern Ireland is in effect in the EU's Single Market. The emergence of a customs and regulatory border in the Irish Sea has closed Northern Ireland off from Great Britain. This, and with the bulk of new laws in Ulster originating from Brussels, has come at an enormous cost to the people of the province.

Chris Heaton-Harris' appointment as the Minister of State responsible seems to be designed to assuage criticism and although he has a long track record of Euroscepticism he is not a Spartan (one of the 28 Conservative MPs who ensured that the May deal was not passed by Parliament). The Minister responsible for Brexit negotiations should have full Cabinet rank commensurate with those responsibilities and be tasked with taking back control of Ulster from the EU. We should have left the EU completely and as one. If the Unionists are unable to guarantee that Northern Ireland is wholly part of the United Kingdom's judicial system and Sinn Fein becomes the provinces leading party in this year's Assembly elections, the prospect of a united Ireland with Sinn Fein in the driving seat comes into view.

The political question which dominates the media as this year begins is whether Boris Johnson will see out 2022 as Prime Minister.

Boris has had a turbulent 2021 both personally and politically.

The goings on at Number 10 should be the least of his worries. The staffing of Downing Street advisors is particularly youthful and who could begrudge them the occasional quiz with wine and cheese. The young have been asked to forgo too much when they are not truly at fatal risk from Coronavirus.

'Wallpapergate' is an unnecessary self-inflicted wound. When Boris leaves Downing Street a few years hence, like many of his predecessors, his finances will receive an enormous boost. And Lord and Lady Johnson will be able to gratify themselves by acquiring the most expensive wallpaper in the land. To have sought to bring that occasion forward and to seek others to bear the cost is crass but people do strange things when under extreme pressure.

A more serious error of political judgment is likely to be a failure to influence the political and economic decisions of his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak. The size of the state has returned to the level presided over by the socialist Clement Attlee some 70 years ago.

How to pay for the spending and at what pace to increase taxation is the most important question that the Johnson Government faced in 2021.

Choosing to raise direct taxes in the form of higher national insurance contributions from April 2022 may well have highly damaging consequences for the Prime Minister and his Conservative administration. The raising of national insurance contributions to 13.25% means that given a basic rate of income tax of 20% even those on incomes as low as £25,000 per year will be paying a marginal rate of 33.25%. This should never have been part of a Tory agenda.

The financing of the Government's vast fiscal deficit by the Bank of England over the last two years must now come to an abrupt end. The retail price index is already up 7.1% year on year. Even if that financing ends early in 2022 inflation will tick up much further than that, especially as higher energy costs bite and the consumer faces higher taxes levied by a Conservative administration.

That is the real threat for Boris Johnson in 2022 and we may learn more about a lady called Liz. 

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Director : Robert Oulds
Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
The Bruges Group
246 Linen Hall, 162-168 Regent Street
London W1B 5TB
United Kingdom
Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
Washington D.C. Representative : John O'Sullivan CBE
Founder Chairman : Lord Harris of High Cross
Head of Media: Jack Soames