Phew! What a tumultuous couple of weeks! Britain voted to leave the European Union. There will a period of reflection and once Article 50 is invoked a maximum of two years before Britain formally leaves the European Union. As to what terms that happens on is another matter.
At the moment the European Leaders are saying no free market access without the free movement of people. However, the leave vote was predominantly won on the issue of the migrants. So I don’t see how Britain’s government can accept the free market. To me, this confirms my suspicion that the European Union wanted to see Britain leave.
So what are the prospects for Britain outside the EU? Well economically speaking there will have to be belt-tightening, with higher taxes and government spending cuts, to pay for the increased interest on the loans to the UK. The weaker pound will mean higher prices for imported goods, while exports and tourism to this country will increase. Scotland are again seriously contemplating independence (but are in a weaker position financially now than in 2014 when the oil price and hence hence revenues were higher). So that is a big question mark. There are similar big questions hanging over Gibraltar and Northern Ireland. If this was not so serious and sad, I would say we have had better entertainment than the Game of Thrones.
But what impact will Brexit have on British Science Fiction?
Well with the financial belt-tightening, it means there will be less science fiction book sales. This in turn will mean less books published by the publishers. And of course the publishers will be less willing to take risks on new authors.
Of course this trend will go across most of the book trade, and the entertainment business for that matter.
Those of you who know me, know there’s a but coming… well here it is… I have felt for some time that the traditional economic models are being slowly diverged away from. I can’t put my finger on it… but an example is that the FTSE 100 should not have closed above the level on Thursday evening when is was rising on the assumption that Bremain would win.
It’s time for science fiction to consider a different economic world order and what the impact would be. For instance if I was Prime Minister facing this situation, here’s some of the things I would do:
- I would look at the car industry and ‘do a Norway’ i.e. promise to have all new cars being electric cars from say 2025 onwards. That means getting the likes of whoever builds electric cars to set up a factory in this country for home produced electric cars.
- I would start to build some of the Severn tidal wave schemes to make us less dependent on energy sources from outside the UK. It would improve our balance of payments in the longer term (short term it would be negative, but I’m sure loans can be obtained for such capital projects). I’m sure there are similar schemes that can be set up elsewhere around the country. In the end I would like to see something like 20% of our energy come from this area of renewables. (This has the added advantage of giving the construction workers some work that would be lost to the reduced house-building that will come as a result of Brexit.)
- The smart cities will be given a boost as most of the measures boil down to saving on money – we will start entering the modern era and it will be quicker than our European Union chums because we have more incentive.
- 3-D printing will become more prevalent because it will mean we will not have to wait for the spare parts coming from manufacturers around the world, including Europe. We can do interesting stuff now, but with the improvement in what the printers can do…
- There is more…
The point I’m making is that science and technology are going to help Britain’s economy. By forcing Britain out of the EU, it means the manufacturers and industry will have even more impetus to go down this road than the EU. So in the longer term I see Britain accelerating past the EU in economic terms.
Science fiction has an important role to play here. It gives people a better understanding of what is around the corner and how they can help themselves. Also it explores how our lives will change and this will help people understand their options much better.
So what I’m saying is that science fiction of the near future variety is needed now more than ever in this country. But don’t expect it to come from the big publishers in the short term as they are worried about profits. Now is the time for the small independent presses who are willing to to a risk on new authors.