Boris, Brexit and the City

Boris Johnson photoBoris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has recently made some upbeat statements about the prospects for the UK outside the EU. As with the statements of many senior Conservative politicians, there is the inevitable caveat. His preference is still for the UK to renegotiate its membership terms and remain a member of the EU. If such a renegotiation were to be successful, Johnson would be campaigning for us to stay in. However, if not, then, we would be better off out. In his words, “we have nothing to be afraid of in going for an alternative future, a Britain open not just to the rest of Europe but to the world, where we have historic ties and markets with vast potential.”

It would be easy to dismiss these words as posturing, but there is some substance behind the Mayor’s remarks. His senior economics advisor, Gerard Lyons, has just produced a report evaluating the prospects of different political scenarios for the City of London and its conclusions are most interesting.

Currently, London’s economy is worth £350 billion per year. If Brexit were handles badly, the report suggests the London economy would only grow to £430 billion by 2034, a tiny increase over 20 years, and see a shedding of about 1.2 million jobs. If we left on amicable terms with outward-looking policies, then the London economy would grow to £615 billion and see an additional 900,000 jobs created over the next 20 years. Dr Lyons suggests membership of EFTA as a possible option, but his calculations are based on the assumption that’s we will be outside the EEA – i.e., he is not proposing we take the “Norway Option”. Staying in on the present terms would, according to the report, be better than a bungled exit as an extra 200,000 jobs wold be created but the preferred scenario would be for the UK to remain in a reformed EU, which would see London’s economy grow to £640 billion with one million jobs being created.

So the difference for London between a well-handled Brexit and the UK remaining within a reformed EU amounts to 10% of the projected job growth and about 9% of GDP growth. This, of course, assumes that the EU will reform, which looks to be a bit of a long shot. The report also only considers London, which is only one part of the UK economy albeit a very important one. In 2011, the financial services industry, which is largely situated in the City of London, amounted to 9.6% of UK GDP.

However, even if Mr Lyons’ predictions are correct, there are plenty of other factors which would tip the balance in favour of withdrawal. Staying within a reformed EU would still leave us forced to accept free movement of people, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and the impotence of our Parliament to have the ultimate say in matters of legislation, Even if the regulatory burden were to be reduced, the direct costs of EU membership are unlikely to fall below £10 billion per year. Multiply this conservative estimate by 20 to reflect the timescale envisaged in Mr. Lyons’ report and the resulting savings for the UK as a whole from withdrawal would be eight times the supposed reduction income growth for London resulting from withdrawal rather than staying in a reformed EU, and this is without taking other drains on the economy such as the CAP and the CFP into account.

So if we can believe Dr Lyons, Boris Johnson is quite right to say that we have nothing to be afraid of life outside the EU. Indeed, the economic prospects look pretty rosy.

Photo by BackBoris2012

The reasons why they want us to stay are the same reasons why we should leave

The prospects of “Brexit” are worrying the leaders of some of the other 27 member states. Benoît Cœuré, a senior official at the European Central Bank, said that UK withdrawal would create an “enormous shock” to the bloc that would be “very difficult to manage” and David Cameron’s nemesis, Jean-Claude Juncker, stated that he does “not want the EU without Britain”.

Why do they want us to stay? After all, we’ve been throwing spanner after spanner in the federalist works for some 40 years now. No UK government has ever been enthusiastic about either a common EU defence policy or harmonising tax rates across the member states. We opted out of the euro, Schengen and imposing VAT on food, among other things. In fact, most of the population really just want a trading relationship. Sharing our sovereignty does not appeal. Wouldn’t the other member states really be better off if they pursued their federalist dream without us?

Well, for starters the EU budget would suffer if we left. We have been net contributors to the budget in every year bar one since joining the EEC in 1973. The EU-funded reconstruction of Eastern Europe’s infrastructure would not be able to proceed so quickly without the contribution of UK taxpayers – in other words, people like you and me.

It’s not only our money they want – it’s our fish. Our coastal waters, especially the North Sea, were among the best fishing grounds in Europe. No wonder that the Spanish, with the largest fishing fleet in the EU, were keen to take advantage of the Common Fisheries Policy when they joined the EU in January 1986.

Then there’s the role that the UK has played in reducing trade barriers and encouraging financial discipline. We are also seen as a counterbalance to the historical dominance of the Franco-German axis. The open economies of Eastern Europe view us as an ally against the more protectionist nations such as France. Were we to leave, there are fears that the EU would retreat into inward-looking protectionism. Jens Weidmann, the president of Germany’s Bundesbank, recently said, “If Britain continues to make its voice heard in Europe, I am confident that the union will become more outward-looking, open and prosperous for that.”

But these very same reasons the other members want us to stay are precisely why we should leave. Our current direct contribution to EU funds may only amount to £750 per household for the year, but how many hard-pressed families would not rather have an extra £15 in their pockets to help with their ever-increasing food and energy bills? Then, there’s the damaging effects of the Common Fisheries Policy both on the UK fishing industry, which shrank in size by one third in the decade to 2005 alone, and on the viability of fish stocks in our territorial waters, which have suffered considerably thanks to over-fishing by the Spanish in particular and the damaging policy of quotas, which has resulted in many fish being dumped dead back into the waters.

Turning to the checks and balances between the various member states, maybe the EU would become more protectionist if we left. Maybe Club Med would be more likely to rise up against German-imposed austerity. However, the bottom line of trying to reach consensus among such a diverse group of nations is that what you end up with in reality is compromise. Free from having to agree a common position with the rest of the EU, our leaders could once again make decisions that were in the interest of the British people who, after all, are the people who elect them to office in the first place.

If our departure precipitates a collapse of the EU, it will be messy but in the longer term, a blessing for the entire continent. The whole project is fatally flawed and, like other enforced political unions in the past, may well end in tears. On the other hand, if, against the odds the EU is still in existence in fifty years’ time, it will have advanced into the federal superstate that has always been the dream of its staunchest supporters. For all the supposed benefits of having the UK on board, we would have continued to remain a formidable obstacle to this federalist agenda.

So whatever the future of the European project, it will be better for the rest of the EU as well as for us if we go our separate ways.

A Foreign Secretary who supports withdrawal from the EU?

David Cameron’s recent reshuffle saw Philip Hammond replace William Hague as Foreign Secretary. Since resigning as party leader following the disastrous flop of the half-heartedly eurosceptic Conservative General Election campaign in 2001, Hague has given up all pretentions at euroscepticism. He has appeared in print on a number of occasions supporting Turkish EU membership – a disastrous move that would allow over 80 million people the right to come to the UK – and was quick to snuff out as “unrealistic” the demands of 94 Conservative backbenchers for our Parliament to have the power to reject EU legislation.

Hammond, then, is a definite improvement on his predecessor, for last year, he stated that if presented with a choice between withdrawal and EU membership on its current terms, he would vote to leave. Following his recent appointment, he was asked if his views had changed since then. He replied that the current relationship between our country and the EU is “simply not acceptable” and that he would still vote to leave if there was no significant return of powers to Westminster.

So this all sounds like good news, especially as it is inconceivable that he made this statement without clearance from No. 10. However, before we get too excited, there are a couple of very serious caveats. Firstly, this reshuffle comes less than a year before the General election. If the Conservatives win, will Mr Hammond remain in his post? It is widely believed that George Osborne would like to take over as Foreign Secretary – a man who has yet to make a statement that he would ever support withdrawal. Could it therefore be that Hammond’s appointment is mere window dressing? – a confidence trick to lure UKIP voters back to the Tories next year? Given “Cast Iron Dave’s” slippery reputation, this cannot be ruled out, especially given that the reshuffle also saw the removal of two convinced eurosceptics – the Environment Secretary Owen Patterson and Welsh Secretary David Jones.

Secondly, even if Mr Hammond did continue in his post in the event of a Conservative election victory next year, would the scope of renegotiations required to satisfy him be the same as those demanded by the many voters who backed UKIP in last May’s European Parliamentary elections? Where does he stand on restricting free movement of people, for example? Or the total repatriation of justice and home affairs to our judiciary? Did he tacitly support the 94 backbenchers who wanted our parliament to regain power to block EU legislation which was damaging to the UK’s interests? We need to know the answers to these questions before getting too excited.

De Gaulle and a possible “Norway Option” in 1963?

Many Independence Campaigners will remember Reg Simmerson. He was untiring in his campaigning and very well informed in his frequent letters to the press

Here is one of his letters to the editor of the Sunday Telegraph, dated 29 August 1990

“Dear Sir,

Although I agree with most things written by Peregrine Worsthorne it appears necessary to pick him up on one point.

De Gaulle was certainly not “insulting” when he vetoed Britain’s application to join the EEC in 1963; in fact he made a suggestion which coincides almost exactly with that of Reginald Maudling a few years before and also coincided exactly with the offer accepted by the other EFTA countries when Britain and Denmark joined the EEC in 1973.

The suggestion was that each EFTA country should have free trade in manufactured goods with the EEC, that each EFTA country should be able to fix its own tariffs with third countries and that the Common Agricultural Policy should not apply to EFTA countries.

The arrangement would have been ideal for Britain as we could have continued with our cheap food policy whereas we are now paying three or four times world prices for food which is produced by nauseous, intensive farming methods; we should not have needed to subsidise food mountains or sales of food to Russia at give-away prices.

No, de Gaulle did not insult us but Harold MacMillan and Ted Heath asserted that we had been insulted because they wanted to get into the politics of the EEC and, although de Gaulle’s proposal would have been ideal economically, the arrangement did not satisfy the ambitions of those two extremely ambitious British politicians.

The two British politicians therefore asserted that de Gaulle was offering Britain associated status just like that of some French ex-colony when, in fact, he was offering something very different indeed.

No one managed to make an effective challenge to their assertion at the time so they got away with it; the cost to Britain has been immense in trade with the rest of the world; we should have been able to import cheap, wholesome food from Canada, Australia etc. and sell them our manufactured goods; we should not have paid huge sums of money to the EEC; North Sea Oil would have made us rich.

What a pity that such an opportunity was thrown away but let us get one thing straight; de Gaulle certainly did not insult us; MacMillan’s and Heath’s assertions caused the trouble.

Sincerely,

R.E.G. Simmerson BSc (Econ) FCA “

FIGHTER FOR BRITAIN’S FREEDOM – Letters to the Press 1971 -98 by Reg Simmerson
A selection from some 600 letters, edited by Martin Page, is available (Price £5 including postage) from Sovereignty Publications, Worcester Park, Surrey KT4 7HZ

The futility of renegotiation

What we were fobbed off with 39 years ago? Harold Wilson pledge to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EEC when he won the second of two general elections held in 1974. A deal was secured at the Head of Government meeting in Dublin on 11th March 1975 which, in Wilson’s words, “substantially though not completely achieved” the renegotiation objectives.

We were allowed to exempt foods from VAT, to strike a better deal with imports from the Commonwealth while securing a reduction in our contribution to the EU budget. We “also maintained our freedom to pursue our own policies on taxation and on industry, and to develop Scotland and Wales and the Regions where unemployment is high” according to the leaflet sent out by the Government. No earth-shattering concessions here; after all, we are still some way from a common EU taxation policy 39 years later, but with the “in” campaign far better funded than the “out” and considerable ignorance on the part of the electorate as to the true nature of the EU project, these changes were sufficient to secure a 2 to 1 majority in favour of staying in,

No one can expect that a few cosmetic tweaks to our relationship with the EU will secure a two-thirds majority to remain within the EU in 2017. Far more of us are now aware of what the EU is about and we don’t like it. Given the choice between remaining in the EU on present terms and withdrawing, an opinion poll carried out by Opinium or the Observer newspaper last month suggests that 48% of voters would choose to leave while only 37% would wish to remain. However, poll after poll indicates that the balance would swing in favour of continued membership if we could renegotiate our relationship. However, these polls rarely, if ever, go into detail as to exactly what should be renegotiated.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that any renegotiations involving a significant return of powers to our parliament are not going to happen. Jean-Claude Juncker, the incoming Commission President, made it clear in a speech to the European Parliament that any hopes of ending the free movement of people would be doomed to failure. In January 2014, a group of 94 Conservative MPs signed a letter stating that national parliaments should to be given the power unilaterally to veto EU regulations that are felt to be unhelpful. William Hague, Foreign Secretary at the time, said that such hopes were “unrealistic”. This point was underscored recently by Manfred Weber, the new leader of the centre-right EPP faction in the European Parliament, who said that, “For us this, is non-negotiable. We cannot sell Europe’s soul… If we grant each national parliament a veto right, Europe would come to a virtual standstill.”

When it comes to Justice and Home Affairs, there is little sign that a future Conservative government is even going to try to repatriate powers. While some Conservative MPs are arguing for UK withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights, this is a smokescreen. The ECHR is not linked to the EU but to the Council of Europe. Furthermore, if the EU becomes a signatory to the ECHR in its own right, the member states – including, of course the UK – will de facto have to abide by it. What is far more worrying is the opting back in to 33 measures enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty, including the European Arrest Warrant. Theresa May is quite happy to allow UK citizens to be extradited to countries with a far less robust system of justice than the UK and is considering further measures including signing us up to a Europe-wide DNA database.

On top of all this, the confrontation between David Cameron and other EU leaders over Juncker’s appointment has severely diluted the very limited reserves of goodwill left towards our country in Brussels. While there have been some conciliatory remarks by other perceived “reformers” like Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, it would require the support of a majority of Heads of State to allow a special relationship for the UK within the EU and the recent leaked tapes of conversations between senior ministerial figures in the Polish government illustrate just how hard it will be to secure such a majority. Then there is the European Parliament, where the main centre-right and socialist groups have closed ranks to ensure their Eurosceptic colleagues are kept at bay. The arch-federalist Martin Schulz has been reappointed President of the European Parliament, a man who is no friend of this country and whose past form suggests he will prove a formidable obstacle to any serious return of sovereignty to the UK.

Following his debates with UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage in which he came off second best, Nick Clegg admitted that he had been foolish to say that in ten years’ time, the EU would be “about the same” but for once, he was telling the truth. There will be no substantive renegotiation. The long march to ever-closer unity will carry on regardless. Wolfgang Schäuble, the German Finance minister claimed that we in the UK “don’t actually want that much. {we} want some flexibility” but his definition of “not that much” or indeed David Cameron’s may prove rather wide of the aspirations of the UK electorate. Ultimately, we have only two choices – staying on board shouting from the sidelines as the doom-laden EU edges ever closer to the rocks or leaving the fools to their folly.

The Battle to Leave the EU

A FUTURUS Special

by Anthony Scholefield
Director, FUTURUS

In major political issues there are three battles; the battle to win the contest for ideas or assertions; the battle of aims, inclusive of aspirations, and the battle of plans. The electorate is influenced by the battle of assertions but it also responds to clear aims and plans.

As pointed out by Margaret Thatcher’s policy thinker John Hoskyns, Montgomery did not simply tell British soldiers on the eve of D-Day to make their way to Berlin – he had a plan.

THE EURO REFERENDUM (that never was)

There was no doubt about the aspiration of those who wanted Britain to join the euro. Moreover, Tony Blair thought that offering what was a ‘modern’, ‘international’, idea would be popular and he was slapdash about his planning. It would be generous to credit Blair with an aim – he only had an aspiration.

Two things stopped a euro referendum taking place. The first was Gordon Brown’s caution. But, much more important, was the fact that Blair never had a plan to get Britain into the euro.

In retrospect, from his angle, Blair should have taken Ken Clarke’s advice, and that of his own pollster, Robert Worcester. They both advocated an enabling referendum, “I would have preferred the referendum to be held on the issues of principle with the timing and details having been left to the government and Parliament to decide”.

Blair never seemed to understand that getting Britain into the euro was a complicated matter. Winning a referendum did not mean British entry into the euro. To enter, Britain had to re-enter the ERM, decide in conjunction with all the other EU governments, EU Parliament and the EU Commission what the entry rate would be, get a recommendation from the EU Commission that Britain had passed its convergence tests, change the Bank of England’s mandate and give the electorate their promised ‘final say’.

In short, Blair never realised he needed a plan and never planned.

As Roger Bootle wrote (Sunday Telegraph, 10th June 2001):

Now consider what has to be done. First, the British authorities have to decide what an acceptable rate is and from the history showing the chart, you can see this is no easy task. Then they have to agree a rate within that range with our European partners. Then they have to get the pound to that level – and keep it there. And then they have to win a referendum.”

By contrast, while they had to fight the battle of ideas and assertions, the supporters of the pound had a very simple aim and a simple plan – to keep sterling.

THE SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM

There was always some doubt about what were the aims of the Scottish Nationalist Party, in particular whether Alex Salmond really wanted independence as opposed to greater devolution.

However, the SNP aim now is, supposedly, for independence and they have made numerous assertions about the benefits to Scotland. Like Blair, they are strong on aspiration but their aim is hazy.

Yet whenever the consequences of independence are discussed it is clear that the SNP rely on assertions and lack a plan. There is evidently no plan concerning the question of a separate currency, border controls on movement of people, entry and the terms of entry into the EU and many other issues. The SNP has acted as though their proposals will, and must, be accepted by others, psychologically revealing that it does not understand what independence really means.

Alex Salmond has proceeded on the basis that winning an enabling referendum will solve all his problems. But his lack of a plan will not only crucify the Scottish economy, especially the financial sector, if Scotland votes for independence, the same lack of a plan will reflect back to the electorate and undermine the

argument he puts to the Scottish people so as to diminish his chances of winning.

So I confidently predict that, if Scotland votes for independence, that independence will not take place or, if persisted in, will lead to a Darien-type chaos.

There is no SNP plan for EU membership, no plan for defence links with NATO, no plans to take on debt or divide up oil revenues and, above all, no plan for a currency. In truth, the SNP has had various currency offers, a Scottish currency, joining the euro, and its current offer – staying with sterling for the time being (in itself a destabilising proposition).

The fact is that Scotland has a proportionately huge financial sector which is overwhelmingly dependent on English bank deposits, English pension funds and English investors. It is absolutely absurd, and would indeed breach their fiduciary duty, for any entity in England to keep its assets in another jurisdiction from where its liabilities are. Despite sharing a single currency, no German or French pension fund, Council, university or company, keeps its investment or cash in Portugal or Slovakia.

Of course, the idea of Scottish independence is doing damage to the Scottish financial sector already. Think of any English person considering a pension or long-term investment for many years. Offered a choice of an English or Scottish provider, the choice is obvious, and for directors and funds there is the fiduciary duty as well.

The supporters of the union have a clear and simple plan – to keep the union. The main fear of union supporters in England is that Westminster politicians will, in fact, agree to Scotland having, in some way, the benefits of independence without the responsibilities.

THE PROPOSED REFERENDUM OF 2017

With Cameron, his aims and aspirations seem to be purely political in the sense of domestic politics and party politics. He also wishes to be at the ‘top-table’. His remarks about “not banging on about Europe” show a remarkable ignorance of the power politics surrounding him as well as a deep reluctance to reflect on political realities. He lags far behind the electorate.

David Cameron has repeatedly said he has a plan. Rather he has an aspiration. His aspiration is to renegotiate and then present the results to the electorate and then get a YES vote to stay in a renegotiated EU.

WHAT IS THE ASPIRATION, THE AIM AND THE PLAN FOR WITHDRAWALISTS?

1) What are the possible exit strategies?

– UKIP wins a Westminster majority.

– A major Party converts to a withdrawal policy.

– A referendum is held on whether or not to remain in the UK.

– Britain is asked to leave by mutual agreement.

– Other countries decide to leave.

– ANOther.

Quite clearly the most likely and most immediate trigger is an in-out referendum.

2) To lose an in-out referendum would be catastrophic. To have such a referendum unless the out vote is well ahead in the polls would lead to such a loss because of the status quo effect whereby voters prefer not to risk change.

3) To win an in-out referendum, it is essential to present a simple, clear plan of exit which will work and can be demonstrated to work and which all withdrawalists can subscribe to. This would enhance a polling trend in favour of withdrawal.

4) Further, winning an in-out referendum will still leave us with a pro-EU Executive. The only way to compel such an Executive to actually work for withdrawal is to have a clear simple plan presented and endorsed in the referendum.

5) Without a clear plan presented at the referendum, the initiative will be handed to a pro-EU Executive which can be counted on to prevaricate and re-negotiate, working for a further referendum in due course.

6) The EEA arrangement with some modifications for free movement (see my article on Leichtenstein) has to be the way forward.

– Britain is itself already a sovereign signatory to the EEA agreement.

* It is on the shelf. The outline and details are already known.

* It is in accordance with the EU’s own procedures.

– It can be negotiated quickly.

– It takes all the business anti-withdrawal arguments out of the debate.

– It attains the objectives of sovereignty and takes us off the integration path, plus massively reduces costs, except for the Single Market. Can we live with this?

8) David Cameron on the Andrew Marr programme 11th May 2014 kept saying he had ‘a plan’ and only the Tories had ‘a plan’. This seems to me a sensible move by him (from his point of view) and could be a possible road testing of his next argument: “We have a plan and the eusceptics do not have one.”

9) In the 1975 referendum a whole page of the short ‘Yes’ leaflet was devoted to listing the various alternatives offered by the ‘No’ side to EU membership and ridiculing their contradictions. (see Appendix)

10) Some questions needs answering:

a. It is asserted by Ian Milne that the UK is a separate signatory to the EEA and thus would automatically stay in this if it left the EU. Is this watertight?

b. Would the EFTA countries welcome UK membership? This needs to be nailed down.

c. What exactly is the position in the future with EU migrant workers in the UK? Is it suggested (as I would recommend) that work rights should be gradually withdrawn? Otherwise, as these migrants settle and acquire families, the capital cost of importing low income workers via the welfare state will be enormous and there will be diversions of our already meager capital investment to providing all the capital costs of migrants (some of this has already happened of course).

d. We need a list of exactly what areas of policy determined by the EU will be returned to national control under EEA and what remains with the EU.

11) Gladstone: In one of his most famous speeches, on 10th August 1870, Gladstone laid down what needs to be done. This speech related to Britain’s position in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and extracts were quoted extensively by Sir Edward Grey in his speech of 3rd August 1914. It was cited by Asquith as determining Britain’s position on the Belgian Treaty in a letter to Bonar Law on 2nd August 1914, a day before Britain declared war:

“It brings the object in view within the sphere of the practicable and attainable instead of leaving it within the sphere of what might be desirable, but which might have been most difficult, under all the circumstances, to have realized.

12) We are trying to win a referendum and win a referendum in such a way that a pro-EU executive must carry out the result. We are fighting the referendum with a plan with an instruction to the Executive. We are not in a competition for establishing the very best theoretical basis for Britain in a post-EU world, we are establishing a clear, tested, business-friendly plan which should take on the aura of ‘inevitability’, such as preceded the establishment of American and Indian