We are now on the other side of the 2016 EU referendum, where the majority of the British people voted to leave the EU. In addition to being historic, it is also terrifying, exhilarating, horrifying, confounding, scary, thrilling… Voting out is a very un-British thing to do – at least, very 21st century un-British. It is, however, very Great British – representative of the explorers, industrialists, adventurers, innovators and inventors of this proud nation’s past.
The Remain campaign had two significant levers to ensure a predictable ‘stay’ outcome – the twin bedrocks of risk aversion and inertia. These should not be easily dismissed. Change is hard, it is uncomfortable and it comes with risk; but overcoming these very factors are what allow us to reach for greatness in most human endeavours.
If you are one of those that is motivated by fear, then consider this quote:
“There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties,” Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission.
This chills me to my core. The most senior person within the EU dismissing the power of democratic choice within the body that now regulates how we do business, legislate and operate as a nation within the EU.
It is also widely held that we have, as a result of voting to leave the EU, somehow reduced or marginalised the opportunities for ourselves and our children. The very opposite seems true to me.
Trade with the EU countries does make up a substantial part of our economy, although it is in decline having fallen from 55% of our exports, to 45% over the past ten years. During this same time, negotiation to open up new trade agreements between the EU and India (who grew at 5%, compared to the EU shrinking by 0.3% last year) have not been concluded after 9 years of negotiation. Similarly, trade agreements with Australia are threatened because of a dispute by tomato farmers in Italy – a situation far outside of the UK’s control or interest.
Europe is the only continent that is not growing. For a fuller commentary see this report from MEP Daniel Hannan.
Exiting the EU does not mean we give up our interest or opportunity to trade with EU countries – they will still want to sell us their fine wines and luxury cars. We remain part of the European Free Trade Zone, which includes all the EU countries and some 40+ countries in total – from Iceland to Turkey. Additionally our role within the Commonwealth gives us access to a global community that operate with English as the standard language of trade, with many using UK based commercial law.
Joining the EU meant that the United Kingdom has no sovereignty to sign a bilateral trade agreement outside of the EU. How can opening up more options be a greater risk than devolving your rights to a central control centre that has to consider the rights and interest of a growing list of countries?
The greatest risk to the UK now
“A house divided against itself cannot stand — I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.” – Abraham Lincoln
I believe that the greatest risk to the UK now is the voice of the minority electorate, most of whom represent the voice of media, business, the higher income earners and vested EU interests, who are clamouring for a way to dodge the vote result.
These people hold up the values and virtues of democracy, whilst they work for their own interests, and then quickly seek to undermine the results when they do not agree with the outcome. (Un)fortunately that is NOT democracy – that is cherry picking.
Suggesting that the electorate was not informed enough, smart enough, fair minded enough or aware of the big picture when placing their cross in the election, is frankly insulting. When the lowest 10% of earners take home less than 3% of the wealth, and are then denied the result that they have voted for, you have the very definition of elitist behaviour. Almost 30% of children are living in poverty in the UK; the votes of their parents must count.
The very people that fight for the right of those in poverty, the growing middle class who care and are socially engaged, seem the quickest to deny those very people the right to vote – pointing out that they will instead have it worse. This is very much at odds with the logic – leaving the EU is likely to mean a drop in house prices, a reduction in people entering the UK and every chance for improved prices for many household goods and services. This is a good thing when you can’t afford a house, don’t have a job and can’t afford to feed your family.
To work against the voice of the majority, or to belittle its value in any way, is a direct attack on democracy.
Does any country manage without being within the EU?
Let’s consider for a moment what the UK has going for it:
- 5th largest economy in the world
- 4th largest military budget in the world
- 6th major tourist destination in the world
- London has the most international visitors of any city in the world
- The UK is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of NATO, the Commonwealth of Nations, the G7 finance ministers, the G7 forum (previously the G8 forum), the G20, the OECD, the WTO, the Council of Europe and the OSCE
- The UK continues to maintain its “Special Relationship” with the US.
This seems like a pretty good start! It’s not the résumé of a country that should be nervous about representing itself on the global stage.
Looking around we can quickly find good examples of countries that seem to be doing just fine outside of the EU. Two of the top three countries in the Quality of Life ranking include Switzerland and Norway. Both also rank at the top of the Most Prosperous Countries Index.
Where else can we look to see examples of countries operating successfully in a global economy? Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Japan – all are operating doing fine outside of the EU. India is positively booming and the UK is the third largest investor in India, is India’s third largest investment destination and has almost 1.5 Million citizens of Indian origin living in the UK.
We have great options and amazing opportunities.
Choosing to leave, is not voting for UKIP
I don’t like UKIP policies and I think Boris is the UK’s version of the farce that is Trump. To suggest that voting to stay somehow means that you endorse the crazies, is like saying people who drive a foreign car are anti-British.
We do however quickly need to identify the leaders we believe can steer a course to a prosperous future for the UK. Any frustration or fear at the result of the referendum would be better targeted at finding and building a world class team to represent us at the global table.
My views specifically exclude the immigration question, as I believe that is an overplayed excuse for people to suggest that everyone voted to Leave largely because of immigration – I don’t think that is true. Yes, people care about security, free movement and immigration controls – they are not all right wing immigrant haters, and to tar them with that brush reveals more about you than them, I would suggest.
Hopefully if nothing else, you can see that there might be a reason to look towards a positive future based on increased economic development. The vote offers us a way to re-define our place on the global stage, open opportunities to innovators and investors, and to build on the foundations laid by some of the most forward thinking people who made this Britain great!