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The Latest Blog from the Chairman

28/02/17


As the referendum on June 23rd draws near, the campaign is becoming increasingly bitter. David Cameron has accused fellow Tories like Michael Gove, the justice secretary, and Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, of “resorting to total untruths”.

The Brexiteers retort that the prime minister is panicking after some polls put the Leave side narrowly ahead. I fervently agree that the economy is still the Leavers’ weakest point. They are especially vulnerable to the charge of not setting out a preferred alternative trading relationship with the EU. Mr Gove has talked airily of a free-trade area from Iceland to Turkey, implying that a post-Brexit Britain would automatically be in it. Yet this is overly simplistic. The EU’s single market is far deeper than a free-trade area, and most trade deals with the EU are incomplete and come with costs.

Some Brexiteers suggest giving up the single market and falling back on World Trade Organisation rules, and unilaterally abolishing tariffs. Yet as the WTO’s director-general says, this is not a simple or cost-free option. It would mean tariffs on British exports to the EU, and no direct access for financial services. It would require Britain to renegotiate access to the 53 countries that have free-trade deals with the EU. And farmers, manufacturers and others would fight unilateral scrapping of tariffs, which would also mean a loss of leverage to open other markets.

In an editorial, the German magazine Der Spiegel argues that while it is too late “to convince the British to love the EU, perhaps we should use this opportunity to mention how much the rest of Europe admires them. It’s unbelievable that they don’t seem to see how much they’ve shaped the continent, how much we value them here, how close we Germans feel to them”.

“Germany has always looked across the Channel with some degree of envy,” it adds. “On our emotional map of Europe, the Italians were responsible for love and good food, the French for beauty and elegance and the Brits for nonchalance and progress. They have an inner independence that we Germans lack, in addition to myriad anti-authoritarian, defiant tendencies. A lot of what happened in Britain spilled over to us sooner or later, reinforcing our cultural ties.”

In a homage to British cultural exports ranging from “James Bond to Twiggy’s haircut”, the magazine’s staff writers said they wanted to offer Britain a “firm handshake, coupled with an honest, straightforward appeal: remain”. I would have thought Whisky and Haggis would have got a mention.

Leaving the EU would be bad for Orion and that’s my first reason for wanting to stay. The second is it would be bad for the British economy. Thirdly if Clowns like Boris (Britain’s Donald Trump) and Nigel Farage want us to leave we must do the opposite and anyway if I wanted to watch real clowns I would go to the Circus! Fourthly BUT most importantly we must remember that the EU was set up to stop Germany and France going to war and us Brits having to go over and sort it out! It was a political union the economic piece was secondary.

It is hard not to conclude that, even if EU membership has unsatisfactory aspects, it beats all plausible alternatives. It’s not perfect but it works.

No wonder the markets are nervous about the result. The markets shouldn’t be the Bookies are offering 3/10 we stay and 5/2 we leave.

Any readers please note I didn’t once mention Euro 2016.
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