The Week

The Week, 18 August 2017

This week saw the Government publish its first paper on post-Brexit customs arrangements with the EU. It rightly proposes technology as a means to deliver frictionless trade. Reform’s recent paper gives detail on how this might be achieved, including examples of progress in other countries.

Kate Laycock, Researcher

Reformer of the week

Nick Timothy, who called for radical change to the higher education system to deliver greater choice for students and encourage more to adopt non-graduate routes into employment.

Reactionary of the week

Mick Cash, Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union leader, who restated his opposition to automative technology on South West Trains.

Good week for…

Staying put

On Tuesday, figures showed that the share of the working-age population moving region and employer has fallen by 25 per cent since 2001.


On Thursday, for the first time in 17 years, boys achieved more As and A* grades than girls.

Public-sector robots

Also on Thursday, the Cabinet Office selected Capgemini as its partner in a £4 million project to drive the use of robotic process automation technology across Whitehall.

Bad week for…


On Wednesday, the productivity of Britain’s workers fell 0.1 per cent in the second quarter after a 0.5 per cent fall in the first.


On Thursday, Ofsted found that Learndirect, the UK’s largest adult training and apprenticeships provider, was failing to deliver adequate training or monitoring.

Widening participation

On Monday, TeachFirst reported that some of those born in the richest areas are up to 18 times more likely to attend university than those in the most deprived.

Quotes of the Week

“Whatever the nature of the UK’s trading relationship with the EU after we leave, it seems certain that there will be added bureaucracy for both companies and the Government, but technology should lighten the load.Those checks do not have to take place at ports or border crossings – they can be conducted at factories before the goods depart, and much of the paperwork will in fact be digital, carried out online. That will all depend on improved IT systems. Solutions being floated include using the blockchain technology which underpins cryptocurrencies to make the sharing of data about exports much simpler, and employing artificial intelligence to decide where random checks on shipments crossing the borders should be targeted.”

Rory Cellan-Jones, writing for BBC News Online

“Rather than forcing half of the population into expensive undergraduate courses, young people could choose the kind of study that suited them. Students would have an incentive to shop around for the best-value courses.
Universities would be more likely to compete on price, rather than charge the maximum permissible fee.”

Nick Timothy, writing in the Telegraph

Reform’s Week


Last Friday, Emilie Sundorph, Researcher at Reform, was quoted in an article in Verdict arguing that to remain efficient, police forces must keep up to date with changing methods of communication.

On Monday, Danail Vasilev, Researcher at Reform, wrote an article for Independent Age stating that housing assets could be used to fund social care.