Tribune. Dominic Raab, then Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, said in 2018 that history would judge Brexit as follows: “A springboard towards a smoke-free embrace of free trade” (The Spectator, 1er October 2018). In July 2019, Boris Johnson promoted him to the post of foreign minister and assigned his ministry a role “Absolutely central”, both for Brexit and for the vision of “Global Britain”. This vision can be found in Britannia Unchained (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), fervent plea of M. Raab for a globalized capitalism.
Within the Conservative Party, this vision is far from new. In 1999, William Hague, then leader of the Tories in the opposition, proclaimed in The Guardian November 2: “Over the next millennium, nations will compete with each other by adopting the lightest regulations, the lowest taxes, and the most intense trade. These great stumbling animals [les blocs régionaux, comme l’Union européenne] succumb to the maneuvers and competition of the lean, low-tax nation-state. ” Those who share this vision are now firmly in power and are counting on Brexit to give them the freedom to implement it.
If the “Britannia unchained” by MM. Johnson and Raab stand a chance of triumph, it is through the plundering of the most precious of all resources: human capital. In 2010, according to World Bank estimates, 292,000 UK-born higher education graduates aged 25 to 64 were living in the European Union (EU) at the time, while 910,000 graduates from the higher education of the same age group born in the EU lived in the UK.
Boris Johnson did nothing to hide that he wanted to further amplify this “Brain drain”, which represents a net gain of over half a million “brains”. As early as August 2019, barely two weeks after assuming the head of government, he ordered British embassies to broadcast a message affirming his determination to “To ensure that our immigration system attracts the very best minds from all over the world” and detailing various concrete measures to achieve this goal.
To achieve his goals, he knows he can count on three major assets. First, the reputation of British higher education. According to the criteria (admittedly questionable) and the figures (indisputably influential) of the last QS ranking, Brexit deprives the EU of its four universities in the world top 10 and 17 of its 27 universities in the top 100. Then there is London . Even weakened by the pandemic, what was the largest metropolis in the Union is not about to lose its appeal. Last but not least: the spread of English as a common language has made the country a powerful magnet, with a vast reserve of potential entrants among whom it is free to choose. Once control of its borders has been regained, the UK can leave the thankless task of welcoming and socializing the countless refugees and migrants from Africa and the Middle East to the EU. During this time, he can open his doors wide to the brains he covets.
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