As 2008 ends, the future looks bleaker than it has been for some time. Tough times are undoubtedly ahead and there is a limit to how much politicians could do domestically to improve the current situation.
Britain’s problems are deep and this recession will be pretty nasty, and likely to be more serious and of longer duration than recessions afflicting other countries.
I have been sceptical about the weak pound propelling the economy by allowing increased exports. The UK manufacturing base is too small for Britain to export its way out of recession, and the demand is weak anyway. Cheaper currency also must mean raw materials and parts denominated in dollars or euros will become more expensive. And as for fresh fruits and veg, very much out of season, that we find in the supermarkets, they will become dearer.
But the weak pound should help tourism and, even if the British weather is nothing to write home about, there is a lot that Britain offers. While tourism will not save the British economy, it may help to soften the blow and assist in recovery.
London is one of the most exciting cities in the world with a huge range of activities from theatres, cinemas, museums and galleries to, of course, shopping. With the Eurostar, it is possible for many French and Belgians to take a day trip.
History is also a great strength for Britain. For example, Stonehenge and Salisbury make a really nice day out from London. Think about other historical cities such as Edinburgh, York, Bath and Canterbury. Milk Oxford and Cambrdige for all their worth.
Not only should one think about pre-modern history. The age of iron and the empire would also interest visitors. Mines, machines, trains, ships and docks alongside art and architecture from the Victorian period are great heritage that Britain possesses. Industrial cities may not have the lure of pretty mediaeval towns, but some slick PR should do the trick.
Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons in Wales, the Lake District in northern England, or the Highlands in Scotland, Britain does not lack in beautiful landscape. It would be great if steam engine can be run in these places: perhaps a new generation of environment-friendly models could be built.
Britain furthermore has a huge asset that no other European country save Ireland has: the language. English is and will remain for some time the global language used to conduct business. Many would like to spend a few weeks, a few months or even a few years in Britain the learn the language. Combine that with the (sometimes absurdly) high regard that the UK universities are held in, language education could become a major pillar of the UK economy.
Britain needs a more balanced economy: tourism and education should be considered as important part of it.