A theme in the aftermath of the referendum has been prominent Leavers’ outrage at the apparent lack of contingency planning for a vote to Leave on 23rd June.
But I struggle to think what could have been done that would make any difference. It would have been ideal to have in place a strongly counter-cyclical fiscal policy response. But that is not realistic, since the vote to Leave inevitably meant the disappearance of the government, and any authority that there might have been to launch such a response. It would also have been better to have had a firm idea what ‘Leave’ meant; a target set of proposals to take to the EU in some form. But this was not possible. Leave could not agree what they wanted, placing themselves at distinct points on the trade-off that involves sacrificing free trade for free movement, or denying the existence of the trade-off altogether. So what would civil servants do, embarking on some hypothetical contingent actions? Chat about alternative trade models, thumb the indexes to trade rule books. Not much more. The only real planning to be done, in the absence of a government, was at the other end of town in the Bank of England, in which regard Leavers can have no complaints.
The post-vote chaos and economic uncertainty is partly unavoidable, and partly the fault of the discord amongst Leavers themselves.