Nothing is rosy in the “Remain in the EU” camp

Talks of a split in the “Leave” camp following the launch of two competing pro-withdrawal organisations, leave.eu and vote.leave, in recent weeks is not exactly the sort of news those of us supporting independence from Brussels want to see splashed all over the media. Of course, there is a long way to go and many alliances will be made before the official “Leave” campaign receives its imprimatur from the Electoral Commission.

On Monday 12th, however, it was the turn of the “Remain” campaign in the spotlight and it wasn’t a particularly impressive show. The main speaker at the launch of Britain Stronger in Europe was Sir Stuart Rose, the former Chairman of Marks & Spencer. Being a businessman, he talked much about trade – the world’s largest free trade area, the significant volume of exports to the EU and so on. We were told that “a range of experts” linked three million jobs to our trade with the EU. Hang on, haven’t we heard this canard before?

This is a defence not of EU membership but of the Single Market which, of course, we would still have access to if we replaced our EU membership with membership of the single market. Flexcit proposes that through EEA and EFTA, the European Free Trade Association, we would still have access to the Single Market but would not be subject to the European Court of Justice or to the EU anti-competitive tariff walls. We could negotiate our own trade arrangements and would not be compelled to put every piece of EU legislation onto our statute books – a real win/win situation. For the umpteenth time, there would be no job losses. Jobs would increase as  our exports outside the EU accelerated beyond the current 63% of our total exports.

A pre-released version of the speech contained several references to supporters of withdrawal as “Quitters”, but for some reason, Mr Rose did not actually use the term in the speech. He also stated that Britain’s EU membership was worth “around £480 million a year” to each British household. A few hours earlier, he had said £450 per year. Confusion worse confounded! The real cash direct cost paid by the UK will be £13.5 billion+ (Over £400 per second.)

Furthermore, what’s wrong with quitting something in favour of something better? Did anyone deride AFC Bournemouth, Norwich City and Watford as “quitters” when they gained promotion from the Championship to the Premier League? Let’s face it, even by Rose’s admission, the EU is not the Premier League. He said lots of good things about our country and there were Union Jacks all over the pace at the official launch, but by contrast, he admitted that the EU was deficient – in need of reform. That has, however, been steadfastly been refused for over years. Indeed, the EU just grabs more and more power away from the member states. Lisbon was the last straw.

What is particularly sinister about Mr Rose’s decision to spearhead the campaign is that, until recently, he appeared to be somewhat less enthusiastic about the EU. A few months ago, he said it was nonsense to suggest businesses would quit Britain if it was not in the EU. Today, however, he played the fear card, talking of withdrawal as a “leap into the unknown”. What is unknown about functioning as a sovereign independent state once again? We did very well until 1973 and the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are still working very well without being part of a supra-national empire. Did Singapore take “a leap into the unknown” when it was expelled from the Malaysian Federation in 1965? Perhaps, but it has never looked back – its citizens enjoy greater prosperity and freedom than their Malaysian counterparts.

The European project, an attempt to weld a group of very diverse nations into a single political entity, is is the leap into the unknown – and one which has already caused immense suffering in countries like Greece Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland.

The other speakers weren’t particularly impressive either. Baroness Brady, a Tory peer and successful businesswoman said that, “we cannot cope on our own in a very tough market.” What an unpatriotic, negative loser! We are the sixth largest economy in the world. The idea that we need those kindly Brussels bureaucrats to hold our hand in this big, frightening world because we are so incapable on our own is, frankly, risible.

Of course, for big businessmen like Sir Stuart Rose, who have benefitted from the pool of cheap EU labour, the EU has been a good thing. The army of lobbyists in Brussels have done much to oil the wheels of the EU machinery in favour of the big multi-nationals, but it hasn’t done much for the rest of us. And herein lies the weakness of the “remain” message. Rose speaks nonsense. A patriot is someone who feels positive about their country, not a negative loser.

The “leave” camp has mnany excellent arguments for leaving. The CIB and other like-minded groups are the true, positive patriots, with an exciting vision for our country’s future.

Photo by NHS Confederation

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10 comments

  1. Jonathon HarringtonReply

    I am more than a little taken aback that someone so experienced and worldly wise as Sir Stuart Rose should not only take the position he has but then rely upon such ‘doubtful’ evidence to ‘support’ his case. Were I a ‘floating voter’ which I am not I am sure his speech would convince me to vote for us to leave. Can he not see the wood for the trees? Apparently not!
    A ‘free trade area’ does NOT need a European Parliament with all its hidden costs and internal ramblings to operate perfectly successfully.

  2. James CampbellReply

    My biggest fear on trade is not getting a quasi- or actual EEA free trade deal, but of EU importers punishing British exporters over time by preferring other EU suppliers. Britain will probably suffer a political backlash for “turning its back” on the EU, even if we don’t see it that way. It’s not an argument we want to highlight but, for me, still a real one.

    On “quitters”, I actually think pro-EU politicians are lazy. They have no real passion for the EU, but it’s much easier to go with the flow than have an inspiring vision for life outside the EU, which will involve a lot of work.

    • Ken WorthyReply

      There would certainly be a political backlash from EU politicians, but it’s very hard to see why EU importing companies would start discriminating against their British suppliers. They are not buying from us because they like us, or agree with us politically. Surely they focus on their business needs. If our products meet those needs better than those of our competitors, they will buy them. That’s how business operates. The Germans are not going to close down Mercedes World and Aldi and Lidl just because we leave the EU – can’t sell to the British any more. They are doing very well over here and will want to continue doing so. We will do the same over there.

      • James CampbellReply

        I hope you’re right. But there is already ill will in Europe against us British for focusing so exclusively on our own interests and seeking opt-outs. We already know that British companies do badly in open EU tenders. Competitors to our exporters are likely to look for chances to exploit further bad feeling against us. It’s just a factor we need to be aware of and not be surprised at some loss of exports following Brexit.

      • James CampbellReply

        Another thing: I’ve been speaking to a German student of mine about this issue (I teach English). He’s also convinced that there will be a backlash against UK importers. According to him, Germans and Austrians universally believe that the UK is a net recipient of EU funds. Perceptions can be skewed but they can be as powerful as reality.

        • Ken WorthyReply

          Interesting view. Perhaps in that case they should welcome being freed from the burden of supporting Britain as well as most of the rest. The politicians, though, do recognise that the loss of Britain’s contribution to the EU budget would leave even more of the burden on Germany. I still think that businessmen will be influenced by pragmatic considerations rather than emotion, but who knows?
          Our exports should benefit overall by focusing on the growth regions of the world rather than Europe, which is not only stagnating because of the Euro, but also has a declining share of both world trade and our own exports. The right to make our own trade deals, instead of relying on the EU to do it (badly) for us, is an important freedom to be gained.

  3. Ken WorthyReply

    I must say it’s rather nice to see our old friend the three million jobs surface yet again, this time from Sir Stuart Rose. We haven’t heard from it since Nick Clegg used in during the election. That worked out well, didn’t it? The original claim was disowned years ago by the professor who headed the research on which it was based, but it still keeps surfacing time and again.
    The Times headline for Sir Stuart’s speech was “Quit the EU and every family throws away £3,000 a year”. This figure appeared to be based on dividing the value of our exports to EU countries by the number of families in Britain, though it’s hard to believe he could really be that simplistic. Does he really think that trade would completely cease if we left? Now he seems to be claiming that the cost per head of leaving is either £480 million or £450 million. If that’s the best he can do, he seems to be the ideal opponent for the Leave campaign.

  4. Ian Hawthorn ThainReply

    The absense of genuine commercial logic in a speech from a man such as Sir Stuart suggests to me that he is being pushed by political forces, not commercial ones, and has had to struggle to make a case he doesn’t actually believe in.

    I don’t believe it either, but there’s no room for complacency. Those who have a political agenda are concerned with power, not profits, and are therefore all the more dangerous.

    This is not a time to be divided and conquered. The leaders of the BOO groups must get together around a table, resolve whatever petty differences keep them apart, and form a united front under the most capable political campaign organiser we have got, whoever that may be. I still think Pat Condell is our best front man; it’s the funding and back office work which now need to be organised.

  5. Gordon WebsterReply

    To those who think there will be a backlash against British Goods going into Europe, I say think again. Europe has far too much to lose, and will not strangle the golden goose. They export far too much to us – over £2 billion in the first three months of the year – and they own our Utilities, while forcing us to use useless Wind Turbines, which they manufacture. Our exports to them are either level, or reducing – our need for Europe is reducing. They still subsidise the Coal, Steel and Ship Building, while they have closed ours down. Sarkozy said, “we cannot allow Britain to become strong and prosperous again.” Pretty much sums up our Partners Economic Forecast for us. The only way we will grow is to leave.

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