Stop dreaming your federalizing dreams, Brussels, says Stephen Hill
Britain Stronger in Europe – the BSE-In-Campaign – keeps getting tripped up, as this week they issued another bald assertion: ‘Companies of all sizes large and small want to stay in the EU’. Immediately, 250 eagle-eyed Brexiteer businessmen said Britain would do better outside the EU, led by the former CEO of HSBC, Britain’s biggest bank by far. I recall when the CBI issued a similar bald assertion about their own survey, only to be tripped up by the eagle-eyed Brexit media, and the Director-General had to resign, admitting guilt for manipulation of a survey’s results; or for the gilt of the EU, indeed.
Here is what some leading Brexiteers have had to say, for real. Lord Blackwell, the much-respected Chairman of Lloyds-HBOS Bank, said that a Brexit would only hit business investment ‘in the short term, but there are many reasons why the UK is likely to remain an attractive global location whatever the outcome. I don’t agree that remaining in the EU without a significant change in the current arrangements is ultimately sustainable from a political and constitutional perspective, nor do I believe there is a compelling economic argument to overcome those reasons … but in the end our global competitiveness outside the EU must be a primary concern’.
Lord Bamford of JCB pointed out that in 1980 the 28 countries of the EU represented 30 per cent of Gross World Product, but by 2014 it had fallen to 17 per cent. He continued: ‘We hear a lot about the risks of leaving the EU, but we do not hear enough about the risks of staying in … We are over-regulated now but will it become even more onerous? … We need to look outward to where the growth is – or leave us free to do so.’
Sir James Dyson, the inventor and billionaire industrialist, said: ‘ … it’s a European Union dominated by Germany, and in our particular field we have these very large German companies – [Bosch, Miele and Siemens etc.] – which dominate standards setting and energy reduction committees, and so … the old guard and old technology are supported, and not new technology’.
Tim Tozer, managing-director of General Motors’ Vauxhall, welcomed the Referendum and said that a Brexit from the EU would not stop Vauxhall, a GM subsidiary, doing business in the UK: ‘I don’t think in that event there would not be a trade agreement with what was left of the EU. We’re a very, very big market for European products, goods and services and it would be unthinkable for us as a corporation that no such trade agreement would ultimately be negotiated if this country chose to leave. So whatever the outcome, that won’t affect the way we look at the way we invest in this country and run our business within it.’ Vauxhall, makers of the best selling Astra, employs 35,000 at its two plants in Ellesmere and Luton.
Robert Walters of the eponymous City recruitment agency wrote: ‘If we get ourselves out of the bureaucratic nightmare Europe creates that would be beneficial. There would be no worries about an exit’. For an example of an EU nightmare, Gerald Mason, head of Tate & Lyle Sugars, complains that EU cane sugar producers face tariffs of up to £250 per tonne, putting retail prices up. Producers of beet sugar, however, will benefit from the removal of the EU-imposed production cap in 2017, which could bring prices of beet sugar down by 15 per cent by 2020. Tate & Lyle production has halved since 2009, when EU regulations scaled back its market for beet sugar.
Finally, the chemicals billionaire founder and chairman, Jim Ratcliffe, of the £18 billion Ineos, Britain’s largest private company and the operator of the giant Grangemouth refinery in Scotland, tells it like it really is: ‘I think the UK would be perfectly successful as a stand-alone country, part of the European marketplace like Norway and Switzerland, but without the expensive EU bureaucracy… layers and layers of European legislation on top of existing national legislation is making Europe very cumbersome, very inefficient and very expensive. The Brits are perfectly capable of managing the Brits and don’t need Brussels telling them how to manage things. European countries do not want to be without the UK marketplace … we are mutually interdependent in the market sense. I just don’t believe in the concept of a United States of Europe. It’s not viable and it’s not a concept anyone really wants. Brits are British, Italians are Italian and Germans are German… We are independent countries.’
Brussels! We are independent countries, and with very different economies, aspirations and futures. Stop dreaming your federalizing dream!