BMW’s mistaken intervention

The German-based BMW group, which ownes Mini and Rolls Royce, has recently intervened in the EU referendum debate.  Last week, the CEO of Rolls Royce, Torsten Muller-Otvos, sent a letter to BMW employees on Britain’s EU referendum. It stated that:-

“Free trade is important for international business. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars exports motor cars throughout the EU and imports a significant number of parts through the region. For BMW Group, more than half of MINIs built and virtually all the engines and components made in the UK are exported to the EU, with over 150,000 new cars and many hundreds of thousands of parts imported from Europe each year. Tariff barriers would mean higher costs and higher prices and we cannot assume that the UK would be granted free trade with Europe from outside the EU.

Of course, the letter did not mention that if the UK was to exit the EU and to maintain access to the SIngle Market by re-joining EFTA, there would be no tariffs and thus no effect on prices. But then, would you expect this option to be encouraged by a company committed to EU membership?  The letter was quite explicit about this:-

“The BMW Group and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars believe that the UK is better as a member of the EU than it would be outside it.”

The worst part of the letter concerns the subject of regulation:-

“When it comes to regulation, whether the UK remains inside the EU or leaves it, with Europe as the UK’s largest export market by far, we would have to abide by European rules and regulations in any case. We believe it’s much better to be sat at the table when regulations are set and have a hand in their creation, rather than simply having to accept them.”

It is hard to believe that Torsten Muller-Otvos is unaware that regulations governing motor vehicles are no longer made by the EU. The  Transport Division of UNECE, the United Nations Economic Committe for Europe, based in Geneva, provides secretariat services to the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29), and has been doing so for more than 50 years.

The hehaviour of the motor industry is very reminiscent of 1975. Lord Stoddart recalls similar scare stories then:-  “I can well remember the Chief Executive of British Leyland, Sir Donald Stokes, writing to all his employees in my constituency telling them that they could lose their jobs if they did not vote to stay in the EEC in the 1975 referendum. He said the British car industry would be lost if we left. The British people did vote to stay in and what happened? We lost the British car industry anyway. Sir Donald later recanted his statement, admitting that he had been wrong. The lesson from this is that bully boys should always be resisted.”

The enthusiasm of BMW for the EU is no surprise given its links to the European Round Table of Industrialists. A glance at its list of members reveals the names not only  of Norbert Reithofer of the parent company but also  of Ian Davis from Rolls Royce. The European Round Table of Industrialists is described in Wikipedia as “an influential advocacy group (in other words, lobbying organisation) in the European Union.”  This organisation meets before the Council of Ministers holds its meeting and wields immense influence. It may represent industry, but has a vested interest in furthering EU integration and shaping it in a way that favours the big Europe-based multinationals.  A glance at the CAEF website is more than sufficient to allay any doubts that BMW  will be impartial in the forthcoming referendum debate.  Hopefully, unlike the British Leyland  employees of 1975, its UK-based workers will see through the half-truths and propaganda.

Meanwhile, the biggest losers may well not be BMW itself but its dealers. One of our regular subscribers has suggested that people should look up their local BMW branch, book a test drive but then say that because of BMW’s threats to those who wish to leave the EU,  they would never buy another BMW. Apparently a few people who have tried this tactic have found their local dealers to be most apologetic and not a little worried by BMW’s mistaken intervention in this debate.




John Longworth supports Brexit and resigns from the BCC

Readers may be aware that John Longworth has stepped down as Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce because he supports Britain’s exit from the European Union. Following his resignation, he went on to accuse Prime Minister David Cameron of scaremongering

A video of an interview he gave to the BBC seems to have disappeared, but in the video below, he makes the same point – the UK would be better off leaving the EU .

Mr Longworth denied that he had been put under political pressure to leave, saying that the decision was entirely his.

“I don’t regret making those comments at all,” he told the BBC’s World At One programme. “I made it very clear when I delivered my speech (on Thursday) that there were additional comments that were of a particular and personal nature.”

A good letter in the Daily Mail – EU coverage on the BBC

We have received a number of comments about media bias in the EU debate. This letter from Journalist Tony Slinn was sent to the Daily Mail and superbly debunks many of the myths being peddled by the “remain” camp.


Dear Editor

I timed the BBC in/out EU coverage on News at Ten tonight (02 Mar.2016)—two full minutes for stay-in, complete with sophisticated infographics, and just 40 seconds for such a distinguished man as Lord Lamont arguing out … with no infographics and, as usual, curtailed.

That’s a distinct 3 to 1 bias.

As a former maritime editor (Lloyds Register/IHS Maritime, now retired) I am very familiar with the power of infographics. Those shown by the BBC failed totally to register ANY realistic numbers regarding tariffs, just ticks and crosses with no supporting info.

If you want realistic numbers, read Dominic Lawson’s well-researched and sober column from Monday’s Daily Mail. I quote: “The average weighted tariff on goods from outside the Single Market is 3.5%. That’s much less than the currency fluctuation that exists between Sterling and the €uro.”


Back when, I voted for the European Economic Community (EEC), not the EU. Why? Because I believe that trade is the way to closer understanding between peoples. Not politics nor religion, both of which have so often led us along the path of war for no good reason – the Mail’s current look at the Blair years, and what they’ve led us to, amply bears that out.

Also not because of the oft-quoted argument that the ‘EU’ has ‘preserved peace in Europe’—that’s just nonsense. Peace was protected when in 1949, the year I was born, NATO was also born via the Washington Treaty, signed by the most undamaged country (from WWII) and world power, the USA, along with Canada and ten Western European states—Britain, France, the Benelux countries, Iceland, Italy, Norway, and Portugal. The key feature of that pact is a mutual defence clause: if one country is attacked, the others will come to its defence.

Key point: absolutely NO mention of an EEC or, heaven forbid, an EU: the former didn’t happen for 12 years.

The EEC? Spin forward those 12 years to 1957 and the Treaty of Rome – just six members who set up the European Economic Community that aimed to create: “A common market, a customs union, plus free movement of capital and labour”. To please France, it also promised subsidies to farmers, a burden most other EU nations suffer today.

No mention of any ‘defence’, so who did what to protect Europe in the years after 1945 and whenever the EEC/EU thought about it?


The road to today’s UK in/out vote began when Britain applied for EEC membership in 1961 – I remember it well; I thought it was a good idea and voted ‘yes’. French President Charles de Gaulle vetoed our membership in 1963. De Gaulle refused to back the UK’s application because: “The British government lacks commitment to European integration” (my italics).

If only we had!

Hang on, wasn’t it the ‘EEC’ we thought we were voting for? Who mentioned the ‘EU’? Certainly not Prime Minister Ted Heath who stated in 1972: “There are some in this country who fear that going into Europe we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say,
are completely unjustified.”

It was not until 1973 that Britain (along with Denmark and Ireland) joined. By that time, seeing what the so-called EEC was all about, the Norwegians were bright enough to reject it in a referendum later in the year.

Slice by thinly cut and mostly unnoticed slice, the unelected bureaucrats within the European Commission slashed away democracy and achieved victory in 1991—the Maastricht treaty turned the EEC into the EU. It also paved the way for the disastrous €uro monetary union.

Happily, sense prevailed in the UK, we still have the pound not the €uro— just wait until Greece collapses again.

That treaty even includes a chapter on ‘social policy’, as if we’re all the same. Maggie Thatcher, as the Mail recently revealed and despite claims ‘agin it’, saw the dangers.

The UK negotiated a sort-of opt-out (anyone remember what?). But the treaty also introduced European citizenship, giving Europeans the right to live and vote in elections in any EU country, and launched European co-operation in foreign affairs, security, asylum, and immigration. As we can all see today, that’s really worked well.

Of course, Ted Heath’s lies, to quote the Daily Mail of December 2012, had: “Scarcely been mentioned at the previous General Election, and the British people had very little idea of what they were letting themselves in for, other than a trading arrangement that might make it easier for us to sell our goods to our Continental neighbours”.

In February 2014 the Daily Mail revealed the real truth, quoting unelected European Commission vice-president Viviane Reding: “Britons are too ignorant about Europe to vote in a referendum on the subject.”

The British debate about Europe is so distorted, she said, “that people could not make an informed decision about whether or not to stay in the EU.”

Hmmmm… ignorant? Sovereignty?

As Mrs Reding boasted: “70% of the UK’s laws are made in Brussels”. And she also rubbished David Cameron’s bid to curb immigration from Europe, saying it was incompatible with membership of the EU.

So much for that then.

Finally, what about me? I’m for a greater-Europe trade organisation, but totally against the EU. It’s not just the scandalous waste of money or corruption—auditors have refused to sign off EU accounts for 20 years running—but argue as Cameron and others will, it’s nonsense to try and create a homogenised federal ‘Unites States of Europe’.

We’re too old, have too many bad memories, too many suspicions, even too many prejudices, and too many laws that divide not just our sovereign nations, but each other.

The way forward is trade. It’s travel. It’s not mass numbers, it’s getting to know one another on a one-to-one basis that includes respecting the assorted religions we all have. If you like, it’s humanism, which has no place in the barbarity too often inflicted because you think your God or your political belief system is different or superior to mine.

That’s what the EU lacks. You can’t drive people together through politics or religion. Better you come together over a cup of coffee across a table and strike an honest deal, regardless of whether you sell a donkey or a car, that it’s on a national scale, cross-border, or global.

I look forward to that day, though at 67 I doubt I’ll live to see it, along with the end of regional wars that have displaced so many unfortunate people in the name of some-or-other religious, political or regional belief.

I also look forward to the collapse of the EU bureaucracy, the realisation that in the end, democracy with all its faults is really the only system worth living under. And the hopefully assured ‘out’ vote in June that will restore sanity not just to the UK, but to Europe.

I look forward to peaceful global trade that will let me visit those fascinating parts of my planet I’ve still to see, but which live under the threat of people with guns killing mostly innocent civilians for the sake of some God or some political belief.

Above all, I live in hope.

As so often in the past, Britain needs to lead—others will eventually see sense.

Yours sincerely

Tony Slinn

Maritime Journalist, NUJ member

Photo by stephen.spillane

Ten Years? not likely

It could be a full-time job just to debunk all the nonsense that is doing the rounds at the moment.

The latest scare story to do the rounds is a suggestion that UK withdrawal would trigger “ten years of uncertainty.” This is partly based on fears about the validity of trade deals negotiated by the EU on our behalf (and the other member states too, of course).

Lord Lawson, interviewed on the World At One, disputed this and he is right. At a recent seminar Robert Oulds, a CIB Committee member, explained that there was a “presumption of continuance” when one party to a trade deal underwent a change of circumstances. Thus, we would still be able to participate in such trade deals as those negotiated between the EU and Chile, Mexico and South Korea on leaving the EU. Let’s face it, this is sheer common sense; why would either party not want to continue?  All that would be needed is for the two parties to sign an agreement stating that they wish the deal to continue.

Of course, trading with the EU could be more complex and this is why there has been much support for using the so-called Norway Option (re-joining EFTA to allow sealess access to the EEA) to tide us over. It is possible that the desired Europe-wide genuine Free Trade agreement which would replace the EEA COULD take another 10 years, but as long as trade continues seamlessly throughout the withdrawal period, as it would with the EEA/EFTA secnario, no one need be worried. Indeed, as Richard North has put it, this ten years would be a Decade of opportunity.

While we’re at it,  claims that we need ot stay in the EU for security grounds have also been dismissed by Richard Walton, Scotland Yard’s former head of Counter Terrorism.  According to an article in the Daily Telegraph, he said that reducing terror plots is “absolutely not” dependent on being a member of the European Union. “So let’s not scare the horses with fears about Brexit.”  How many more scare stories are we going to have to debunk?

Returning to the World At One feature, it was correct on one point. An academic was quoted saying that once Article 50 is invoked. “the train has left the station” – in other words, withdrawal MUST happen.

Is this scary? Hardly. If you were told, “After 43 years in prison, we’re going to let you out soon, but beware! Once you go through that prison door, we’re never going to let you back in again”, would you really worry about that?

Photo by infomatique

A letter from our President to Mr Corbyn

Dear Mr.Corbyn,

I appreciate the attention you give to letters from concerned people so I hope you will reply to mine.

I am older than you and proud to have grown up in a small working class terraced home with socialist parents who knew very hard times. I am particularly proud of certain events in my lifetime in which I have participated whilst remaining of independent mind politically.

As a father of two small children and without being a member of any organisation, I travelled alone to London to sit in the Stranger’s Gallery of the Commons to watch and listen to Howe and Heath sell our country into the EC by 8 votes majority by deceit and by withholding the terms of entry from MPs. I was privileged to film great friends of mine, Labour MPs Nigel Spearing and Eric Deakin quoting their memories of that final debate and their speeches from copies of Hansard open on their laps. As Nigel stated as the last Labour MP to speak before the government winding up “It is like being asked to sign a blank cheque”. The film can be found under Nigel Spearing’s name on the internet.

Along with Tony Blair, Gordon Brown you first gained your seat in Parliament in 1983 and that would have been on the Labour manifesto promise that, if elected, Labour would take us out of the EU as Blair on his candidate address to his Sedgefield constituents stated clearly that membership was bad for trade and jobs. Labour after that defeat changed its policy to support on the encouragement of Kinnock and later lost.

You say that you are committed to remain in the EU for reasons I find questionable and inconsistent. I understand and I agree with you that you would nationalise our railways.

My first question to you therefore is how can you nationalise legally or at all whilst a member of the EU?
My second question is that you and I are greatly concerned about protecting our NHS, jobs and services against financial austerity cut backs. We pay according to present official figures, £33,000,000 net every single day to the EU. Presumably therefore you believe it is better to give this money away every day by remaining in the EU rather than spending it to prevent the closure of care homes, closure of libraries, post offices, cut backs to social, police, fire brigades and ambulance services and increasing council taxes plus being unable to legally provide state aid to save what is left of our steel industry? Incidentally I worked 51 years in engineering manufacturing watching it all go downhill especially in the West Midlands after joining the “Common Market” that was supposed to give us all greater prosperity and job security.

You and I remember the visit to England by super-salesman Jacques Delors in 1988 and the fine job he did whilst addressing the British TUC. I wonder what British seamen still think of being replaced by cheaper workers on Irish ferries and what, as only one example, the crushed, unemployed workers in Greece think of the EU rather than the view of their government? I think growing violent street demonstrations, not only in Greece, give the answer. We remember the famous newspaper headline “Up Yours Delors” in response to Delors attempts to force European Federalism on the UK. The TUC hierarchy remain surprisingly committed to EU membership.

As for worker’s rights, we recall the replacement of 543 directly employed seamen on Irish Ferries by predominantly eastern European agency crew in 2005. That resulted in Irish Ferry ships being laid up in Welsh and Irish ports for nearly three weeks. That dispute eventually was resolved but led to the employers being given the green light to proceed to outsource crews at lower incomes on its Irish vessels and reflag its vessels to Cyprus. I understand that all vessels then became managed on a contract basis to Dobson Fleet Management based in Cyprus and all new employees employed by Dobson. No doubt this meets with the TUC and your stand on international workers solidarity but I wonder what the replaced seamen still think of what has happened.

I am opposed to Conservative austerity measures, puzzled by what appears to be your inconsistent stance on EU membership and I never thought much about Liberal Democrats musings. I am aware and appreciate that you have opposed various treaties over the years.

I look forward to your reply but with regret that my father is no longer alive to compare your present Labour policies with those of much earlier days before Blair, Mandelson and Campbell did a makeover on the Labour party. I hope you will reconsider providing support to Lord Rose and Britain Stronger in Europe and now come out in favour of leaving. I prefer an outward looking future for the UK free to decide its own future and laws. It is why some of my relatives were killed to protect and to help liberate the countries and peoples of Europe.

With best wishes,

George West

Peter Lilley – a reluctant convert to leaving the EU?

This piece appeared as an op-ed in Friday’s Daily Telegraph.  We may not agreee with Mr Llley’s assessment of David Cameron, but his testimony of a seeingly reluctant conversion to a pro-withdrawal position is well worth reading.

When David Cameron invites you into No 10 to discuss your concerns he  can be immensely persuasive. His courtesy and frankness are disarming;  his grasp of detail, impressive. Last time I visited, he persuaded me  to shift my position on bombing Syria. I hoped that this time, on  Tuesday, he would overcome my concerns about remaining in a largely  unreformed EU.

In 1975, I campaigned to remain in. I love Europe: I did an apprenticeship in France, have a holiday home there, chaired a small  German company, worked in the Netherlands and Belgium, and speak French. But I’m not so fond of the EU – not without fundamental reform.

Some have suggested the largely inconsequential outcome of Mr  Cameron’s negotiations means he is a closet Europhile or a weak negotiator. He convinced me that neither accusation is true. He is our most euro-sceptic Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher’s last term and a determined negotiator. The insubstantial outcome reveals all the more powerfully the intransigence of the EU establishment.

I am a gradualist by temperament – not one of those content with nothing less than immediate and complete restoration of sovereignty.  Given that Britain lost its powers in a series of salami slices, I accepted that we could only hope to get powers back bit by bit. I wanted the PM to start that process but knew it would be difficult. It  would mean abrogating the doctrine that once a power has been transferred to the EU it can never return to a member state. That  doctrine (not “ever closer union”) has driven the process of European  integration and is held tenaciously by the European Commission.

To reverse that ratchet required two things. First, create a precedent by getting some modest powers back. Sadly, the PM was unable to get back a single power conceded to the EU. Secondly, whenever the process of integrating the eurozone involves directives or treaty changes requiring our consent, use that leverage to insist on devolving more powers to the UK. Unfortunately, the draft agreement pledges that the UK “shall not impede the implementation of legal acts directly linked to the functioning of the euro area”. That would mean throwing away our trump cards.

I understand that wording may be watered down. But without a single precedent for returning powers and with our leverage in doubt, Britain remains vulnerable to the ratchet. Each new directive, regulation and court ruling will leach power irrevocably from Britain to Europe.

What would Britain’s position be if the UK electorate decides to remain in the EU on these slightly modified terms? Clearly we have abandoned the “heart of Europe” strategy. If that meant paying enthusiastic lip service on the continent to the European Project, so much the better. Supporting measures we did not want so as to win influence to prevent them happening was never a credible strategy. We have voted against 72 EU measures and lost every time.

Instead, we would be adopting the “appendix of Europe” strategy. The appendix is the one bit of the anatomy, left over from evolution, which serves no function. Likewise, our membership no longer serves any function in a body whose primary purpose (political union) we reject, whose main projects (the euro; Schengen) we are not part of, whose laws we find onerous and whose economic attractions have turned into costs. The alternative is to leave.

That was not my initial position. I was concerned it might involve  disruption. But closer study convinces me that it can be done smoothly. There are plenty of precedents for countries leaving far closer unions than the EU. First we should adopt existing EU law into UK law: we would then be free to amend them in due course.

Next, under the “principle of continuity”, we would accede to most EU trade and other treaties on existing terms. In the unlikely event the EU refused a trade agreement, we could ensure our export trade was unaffected by using the savings on our EU contribution to reimburse the tariffs exporters would otherwise face, still leaving £4 billion to spare. We could make our own trade deals. As the minister who
implemented the Single Market, I believe membership brings little further benefit but exposes us to ever more regulation.

I respect Mr Cameron’s views as I believe he does mine. Maybe he failed to convince me because I have heard too many assurances that European political integration has peaked or that Britain has erected barriers to it – only to see the tide flood in and the barriers washed away. Only if we leave can we regain control of our laws, our money and our borders.