May I wish colleagues a happy New Year – though it may well be less happy after 29 March.
A Brexit issue that has so far seemed to be absent from public discussion is the almost certain detrimental effect that Brexit will have on our national statistical system. Having myself been responsible in Eurostat for the development of the HICPs in the 1990s and beyond, I was able to observe at first hand the extraordinary effects of having regular meetings of experts in working groups and task forces. Statisticians from all member states, who had generally never even met each other before the project began, soon started to develop close professional and personal work relationships – and, in particular, an appreciation that there are often different ways of approaching statistical problems.
Will all this be lost after the UK is no longer invited to these vital discussions? I fear so. It will take time to become evident, of course, but the start will presumably be the first delegate meetings after 29 March (or possibly after the transition period). The loss of contact will develop over time, but eventually the UK will be no closer to the EU than it is to OECD or UNECE, for example. I need hardly mention that the change will also be detrimental to our fellow EU statisticians, who will no longer benefit from the positive contributions that the UK has made in the various fields of statistics. Indeed, of course I am not just talking about consumer price statistics but all the other important fields of statistical work which involve intra-EU co-operation: employment and unemployment, agriculture, transport, construction – the list is a long one. This is not a topic likely to be appreciated by the general public, but our government certainly should be aware.
John Astin 29 Dec 2018