The Complexities of Brexit

The government is recruiting experts to work out how best we will leave the EU.

It is going to be a complicated process if there is to be no major disruption to trade. These papers, written by Richard North and published under the auspices of the Leave Alliance, of which CIB Is a member, look at some of the issues which will need to be addressed.

Squaring the Circle looks at how the two seemingly conflicting demands for access to the single market and a restriction on migration from the EU can be reconciled.

WTO Option analysed looks at what would happen if we did not end up with any agreement on trade with the EU and had to rely purely on so-called “WTO rules”

EU Payments addresses the knotty subject of what financial contribution an independent UK would be likely to make to the EU. It isn’t going to be zero!

Article 50 and Brexit addresses the issue of whether any other alternative exit route from the EU is available.

Trade Barriers and Brexit debunks the suggestion that the EU would offer us a good trading deal by default and also considers the issue of non-tariff barriers, which are a big potential problem for exporters if there is no access to the single market.

With not a lot of Brexit news on which to comment at the moment, we would thoroughly recommend these very thoroughly-researched papers.





The Left of centre case for leaving the EU – new Video

Following on from Brexit the Movie and Flexcit the Movie, we can now announce the Lexit the Move – making the Left of Centre case for leaving the EU.

It lasts just over an hour and can be watched here. It features archive footage of the late Tony Benn and  more recent interviews with Kate Hoey and George Galloway. It highlights the long-standing tradition of left-of-centre withdrawalism and mentions that some trade unions, including the Bakers’ Union and the RMT, support Brexit. Helle Hagenau (pictured above), a long-standing friend of CIB, points out that in Nordic countries, EU-scepticism is very much a centre-left phenomenon.

It is good that we are hearing a strong left-of-centre pro-withdrawal voice in this debate. This video has come at an ideal time, with John Cryer announcing his decision to back “leave” only yesterday. It is ideal to show to any left-leaning voters who support remain or are still undecided. It has a long way to go to catch up with “Brexit the Movie”, which has been downloaded over 1,200,000 times already, but the more views it receives, the greater likelihood that we will see a decent “leave” vote next week.

Brexit’s business supporters speak out as the Clunking Fist hits the road

Recent polling is looking encouraging for the “leave” campaign and one significant boost is that some people, although concerned about the economic impact of of Brexit,  still want us to leave.

However, three significant businessmen have expressed their support for Brexit. Sir James Dyson put it bluntly:- “When the Remain campaign tells us no one will trade with us if we leave the EU, sorry, it’s absolute cobblers. Our trade imbalance with Europe is running at nine billion a month and rising. If this trend continues, that is £100bn a year.”

Equally forthright is Lord Bamford of JCB. He sent the letter below to all his staff. “Do I wish to remain in an EU of diminishing importance as it moves towards ever-closer union? Or do I want us to pull out of the EU, reclaim our sovereignty and regain control of how we trade with Europe and the world?” he asks.

 A more unusual way of showing support for Brexit has come from Jeremy Hosking of Marathon Asset Management.  Mr Hosking, who has donated £500,000 to the leave campaign, owns 13 steam locomotives, 10 of which either already are or will eventually be registered to run on our main lines. Tomorrow,  the Referendum Express, hauled by No 46100 Royal Scot, owned by Mr Hosking, will run from Crewe to York. On board will be a number of well-known Brexit campaigners and if you want to wave them on their way, the timings for tomorrow’s run, which is routed via Warrington, Accrington and Hebden Bridge, can be found here.

It is unfortunate that the aptly-named Britannia (seen departing Salisbury in 2011 in the image above)  is currently under repair, but we can be confident that Royal Scot will not be emblazoned with any figures about how much we pay to the EU every week on the side of its boiler!

Talking of Scots, Gordon Brown has been invited by David Cameron to “relaunch” the remain campaign  – an admission of his failure to sell “Project Fear” to voters. Will the great Clunking Fist deliver the goods for Remain, just as he as credited with turning the Scottish independence referendum campaign round 18 months ago? He has never enjoyed much popularity south of the border and with good reason. After all, this was the man who raided our pension funds, wrecked our economy and was too ashamed to join in the public signing of the Lisbon Treaty after having refused to grant the electorate a referendum.  Thankfully, with such as CV, it is hard to imagine that he will prove any better an ambassador for the EU than his successor.

JCB Bamford letter

A winnable referendum

I have received a number of e-mails from people who say that in their opinion, the “leave” side is not putting up a particularly good show and that far too many people are being frightened into voting for “remain”, even if they don’t really like the EU.

Obviously, the Campaign for an Independent Britain is only one part of the “leave” campaign so we can’t speak for every group fighting for withdrawal. What we can assure our supporters, however, is that we are working flat out  – supplying literally hundreds of thousands of leaflets, dealing with all manner of phone calls and e-mails, speaking at meetings, keeping this website up to date and so on. The list is endless.

Furtherore, we are convinced that this is a winnable referendum. Opinion polls have yet to indicate a significant move in our direction, but activists up and down the country do paint a more positive picture than the headline numbers suggest.

One interesting assessment comes from the EU observer on-line newspaper. In a piece called Stumbling towards Brexit,  Gareth Harding says that “the remain camp is in trouble, big trouble.”  His reasoning is that we are doing so well in a campaign which is loaded strongly against us. “Given the heavyweight opposition ranged against it, you would think the Leave campaign would be on the canvas facing the count. Instead, it appears to have weathered most of the punches landed on it and is still standing strong with the final bell still to be rung” he writes.

The main reason why he expects us to vote to leave is that our hearts will overrule our heads. “Rightly or wrongly they will cast their ballots based as much on laments for imperial greatness, anxieties about immigration, tabloid horror stories about barmy Brussels bureaucrats, stubbornness at the idea of being pushed around by a PM or a US president, and a deep-seated desire for Britain to keep control of its destiny as on any rational arguments about the economy or the country’s place in the world put forward by mainstream politicians.”

We may not agree with this assessment, but the article provides statistical evidence that voters are distinctly unimpressed with David Cameron’s claims that our leaving the EU could result in a war.  Apparently, 35% of voters think that EU membership makes it more likely we will go to war as opposed to a mere 19% who think it less likely.

It is encouraging that the deluge of dire economic consequences have not had as great an impact as the “remain” side had hoped. Part of it is that like the well-known story of the boy who cried “wolf”,  the sheer intensity of the barrage has led to considerable cynicism. There are good reasons to be sceptical, as Tim Martin of J D Wetherspoon points out. After all, many of the claims about economic meltdown do not come from neutral sourcies. The IMF, the OECD and George Osborne all want us to stay in. We have already shown on this blog that previous “divorces” with parallels to Brexit have not had a negative economic effect.

Furthermore, the idea that business is united in supporting “remain” is a myth. We have exposed this in our “5 Mistaken assumptions” leaflet and further evidence for this has come in the shape of a letter to the Daily Telegraph signed by more than 300 business leaders whose companies range from hospitality,  retailing and aviation to finance and insurance.

After all, we are only looking to re-join the rest of the world in managing our own affairs. The hypocrisy of President Obama and others in urging us to stay in the EU when their countries would neve contemplate joining such an organisation has also cut very little ice with the electorate. At least a few figures from the Commonwealth have  been more supportive, including Winston Peters, New Zealand’s former foreign minister and the former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who said  that if he was a UK voter, he would support Brexit.

Nonetheless, the economy remains our achilles heel. Sovereignty and immigration are issues which favour us but fears of job losses worry a sizeable number of voters and could decide the outcome of the referendum.  We have a new leaflet in the pipeline which will assure people that their jobs are safe – watch this space!

Access to the Single Market is a big worry for some companies. Of course, the desire of all supporters of withdrawal is that we can end up with a trade-only relationship with the EU, but this won’t happen at once. The move towards global bodies driving regional trade agreements is gathering pace. This, essentially, will eventually result in a redundancy notice as far as the EU’s role in our trade is concerned, but – to repeat – we are looking several years into the future.

As for the immediate future after Brexit, the worldwide reduction in tariffs does not mean their elimination, not to mention the non-tariff barriers we would face outside the Single Market. Relying on World Trade Organisation rules for our trade leaves some big holes in our arguments and big worries for many company directors.

It would be a tragedy if fear was the real victor in this referendum and the electorate voted to stay in project they really don’t like, with the basic issues unresolved. There are convincing arguments that will address the economic worries and if they can be heard, it will leave very little ammunition left in the Remain camp’s arsenal, so the goal to which many of us have aspired – in some cases for many years – could finally be within our grasp.

A new way of getting into trouble

A letter from our Chairman sent to newspapers in Burton, Derby and Leicester

“You got me into trouble”, a friend said. I wondered how that could be. He is a consulting engineer who visits factories and installations all over the country.

He was with one of his clients, he told me, when a very angry red-faced man accosted him and told him he must take his car out of the company’s car park and put it in the street at once.

His “Vote to Leave the EU” car sticker was the cause of the outburst and I had given it to him. My friend refused and high words followed. Eventually a more senior man came to apologise and smooth things over.

We know that many firms are  indoctrinating their staff that leaving the EU would cause loss of jobs. This is the purest bunkum . It is quite possible for Britain to remain part of the Single Market as a member of the EEA (European Economic Area) and EFTA (European Free Trade Association) whilst leaving the political structure of the EU. Such countries have access to the EU market on the same terms as EU member states.

Roughly three quarters of European law falls away – that dealing with political union. We are left with that concerning trade, mostly to do with things like health standards or the percentage of sugar in jam, which we would be following anyway because they are mostly global standards. The EU is now mostly a law taker in this field, not a law maker. The regulations are made in organisations like UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe), ISO (International Standards Organisation) and the EU is legally bound to enforce them – and has been for over twenty years. They mostly don’t make them in Brussels any more but just transcribe them into EU Directives and Regulations.

Britain has no voice at these global bodies where the real decisions are made. The EU Commission keeps us away from them. Our government has to shut up and like whatever it gets.

The same goes for many work people, who know that it would be very unwise to express an opinion contrary to the EU – In fact, far more dangerous to their continued employment than Britain actually leaving the EU. The little Hitler of the car park demonstrated that. He expected to be obeyed!

Yours faithfully


Edward Spalton

Trade – various snippets

(With thanks to various correspondents for this information)

There is no doubt that any future trading arrangement for an independent UK must include full access to the EU’s single market. For our exporters, it is too critical a market to jeopardise. However, looking to the longer term, it will decline in importance – indeed, the decline has already begun.  Not that  long ago, we were told that “47% of our trade is with the EU.” It has now gone down to 43%, but the figure is actually lower because of the Rotterdam/Antwerp figures (goods that go via these ports to the rest of the world but are counted as exports to the EU).  From a Select Committee  report repeated on BBC parliament on 4th May, it would appear that if the Rotterdam/Antwerp percentage is deducted, our exports to the EU come down to  a figure nearer to 35%.

There have also been some recent developments with the proposed  EU/US trade agreement, the Transatlanic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). It has run into serious trouble, following the leaking of some of the key documents of the secret text by Greenpeace Netherlands.  Furthermore, France’s President Hollande has indicated that he would be likely to block the deal.  It may be too early to write an obituary for TTIP, but the likelihood of it ever coming into force now seems pretty remote.  It has consistently faced opposition from the political left, but as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard points out, the threat it poses to Parliamentary democracy is an issue which transcends the left/right divide.  TTIP, however, is not dead quite yet and we will continue to supply copies of our leaflet to anyone wishing to order some.

Looking ahead, the UK’s trade with Commonwealth Countries looks likely to be a major growth area as the EU declines in importance. Alan Wheatley has written an assessment which can be read here.

Photo by Martin Pettitt