The great Danish physicist Niels Bohr said, ‘Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future’. This is true, but lacking the wisdom to follow Bohr’s advice, I have made six predictions about what may happen in the UK in 2023.
Will the UK hold a general election?
By autumn 2023, inflation in the UK should be around 5%, half its current rate. For some, claiming credit for this will give Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government its best chance to call and win a general election. Inflation will fall, but thanks to maths, not policy. Inflation measures how fast prices are rising compared to the same time the previous year. By autumn 2023, the rapid price increases that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022 will no longer be included in the annual inflation rate. It would be cynical for Sunak to claim credit for reducing inflation, but politics is cynical, and the argument has merit.
Prediction: There will not be a general election in 2023.The Conservative party is 20 points behind the opposition Labour party in the opinion polls and is expected to do very badlyin local elections across the UK in May. Sunak does not have to call a general election until January 2025 and is unlikely to risk one in 2023.
Will the Royal family lose the support of the British people?
With the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the Royal family has lost some of its prestige and dignity. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle have vented their grievances against Harry’s father King Charles III, his stepmother Camilla, his brother Prince William and sister-in-law Kate in a 400-page book and a six-part TV documentary series. Meanwhile, Prince Andrew, stripped of his royal duties and military titles after paying an estimated Euro13.5m to settle claims that he sexually assaulted Virginia Guiffre when she was 17, is the uncle who is hidden away that no one talks about. The Royal family is clearly dysfunctional. Many families are, but most are not, by right of birth, head of state of a country of 67 million people. Continued family squabbles will inevitably raise questions about the sustainability of the monarchy.
Prediction: 2023 will see the coronation of King Charles III. The ceremony will be splendid and, by evoking fond memories Queen Elizabeth II, it will be enough to preserve support for the Royal family…for this year.
Will Scotland win agreement for a second referendum on independence?
In November 2022, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish government cannot hold an independence referendum without the approval of the UK government in London. Despite voting to stay in the UK in 2014, many Scots want to vote again on independence because they disagree with the UK leaving the European Union (Brexit).The majority party in the Scottish parliament – the Scottish National Party (SNP)-argues that the Supreme Court ruling is undemocratic. The SNP plans to use the Scottish parliament elections in May as a quasi-referendum. It says that if parties supporting independence obtain more that 50% of the vote in Scotland, then the UK government cannot refuse another independence referendum.
Prediction: The UK government will not agree to a second referendum and will hope that the SNPs high-risk strategy of getting 50% of Scots voting for independence parties backfires. Some SNP voters do not want independence but vote for the party because they believe it fights hardest for Scotland’s interests. They may not support the SNP this time.
Will the UK start to reverse Brexit?
Brexit is hurting the UK economy. It has erected trade barriers making exports and imports more complicated and expensive. It has reduced investment, contributed to labour shortages and pushed inflation higher. Brexit also poses an existential threat to the UK. It is a source of conflict between Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU and England, which voted to leave. The Brexit agreement effectively left Northern Ireland in the EU Single Market, aligning its economy more closely with the Republic of Ireland, raising questions about Northern Ireland leaving the UK and Irish reunification.
Prediction: In 2023, the UK will remain unable to admit that Brexit was a mistake as the current Conservative government is too divided to address the problems it has caused. The UK and the EU will probably resolve their dispute over the part of the Brexit agreement that requires checks on goods moving between Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland, but the UK’s reckoning with the damage that Brexit has done remains some time away.
Will England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland win a World Cup?
There are three World Cups in 2023 in which teams from the UK will compete. The men’s Rugby World Cup will be in France. England are the only team from the UK to win the Rugby World Cup, in 2003, but lost in the final to South Africa in 2019. Scotland and Wales will also compete, but the strongest teams are New Zealand, France and Ireland. England men are defending the Cricket World Cup they won in 2019. Scotland may also qualify, but India, the tournament hosts, Australia and New Zealand are amongst the favourites. The Lionesses, England women’s football team, are the UK’s only representatives in the women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. England are the European champions, but the USA is favourite to win its fourth world title. Spain and Germany also have a real chance of winning.
Prediction: France will win the 2023 Rugby World Cup, England the Cricket World Cup and the Lionesses the women’s football World Cup.
Will the UK return the Parthenon sculptures to Greece?
In December 2022, reports were that negotiations with the British Museum to return the Parthenon sculptures to Greece were at an advanced stage. This is progress, but a deal is not certain.The British Museum Act, 1963, prevents museums from selling or giving away anythingexcept in very limited conditions, making it easy for the UK government to block any deal.UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, like his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, believes that the Parthenon sculptures are legally owned by and should remain in the British Museum.
Prediction: There will be a deal to return the Parthenon marbles to Greece in 2023, but they may not arrive in Greece until 2024, or 2025. Let’s be optimistic.