Bulldog's Rob Corney: Why I'm voting 'Leave' on June 23rd

By Rob Corney

June 17th 2016 at 10:25AM
Bulldog's Rob Corney: Why I'm voting 'Leave' on June 23rd

Bulldog Licensing MD Rob Corney explains why, for him, the Brexit debate boils down to three key areas – sovereignty, economic prosperity for Britain and economic future for other nations.

On June 23rd, I will be voting ‘out’ and these are my reasons.

No, I’m not a crazy racist who wants everyone with a different complexion banned from my country; I don’t long for the days of empire and think that we can rule the waves from June 24th; and my opinion is not invalid, simply for being different to that of the shouty Remainians who mistakenly believe that only they should have a voice in the debate because they have somehow claimed the moral high ground whilst not recognising their own bigotry and eschewing the concept of democracy.

For me, the decision has been incredibly tough.

Despite studying British political history, having a keen interest in modern politics and managing a company that trades throughout Europe, the disenfranchisement in this consideration, brought about by a lack of credible information on either side, has made a decision tough to come by. Neither the Brexiteers nor Remainians can possibly call the legacy of the vote’s outcome and both have positives and negatives.

There have certainly been some defining moments in my decision-making process.

Eddie Izzard’s performance on Question Time was enough to make even the staunchest Remainian waver towards an exit, whether it be of the room to avoid the TV or Europe just to shut him up. But the comments from German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble that, if Britain leaves the EU, they would not let us join the single market really summarises all that’s wrong with the concept of the EU – the fact that officials, over whose officialdom I have no right of democratic recourse, are given authority in matters which affect me directly, is undemocratic in the extreme.

Indeed, in his article in The Independent, Jon Danzig’s main line of argument for remaining is that an exit would enable the democratically elected British government to run the country rather than the officials in Brussels over whom the British people have no sway, save for a small group of MEP half-politicians.

Unfortunately for Jon, democracy always yields the wrong results for some of the voters, but just because you don’t like the colour of the outcome does not give you the authority to squander our sovereignty to a foreign oligarchy, no matter how benign or well-meaning you believe it to be.

And there is a real question mark hanging over the benignity of the organisation. Try telling 51 per cent of the youth of Greece that the ever-downward spiral of debt and unemployment is in their best interest. Or suggest to the next generation of Spaniards that the governmental direction on spending imposed by Brussels’ politicians who they probably don’t know, let alone had an opportunity to vote for or against, will ultimately see them right.

I’m not saying that the direction of the government policies is necessarily wrong. Given the scale of economic woes, there is quite possibly no alternative, but for any nation to become beholden to the will of foreign powers without invasion or election is simply wrong. How can Europe possibly tell countries like Iran that they must strive towards democracy when the group of nations here has walked away from the very concept.

But sovereignty is just one, albeit a considerable one, of the arguments in this debate.

Most economists of any significance argue that an exit would be detrimental to the British economy. It’s self-evident that the pound would fall sharply (it already has done on news of the strength of polling for the Brexiteers) and, in the short term, there would be some challenges. But it is difficult in the extreme to believe that this would be anything other than a hiccup.

The UK trade gap with Europe is considerable. It is ridiculous to suggest that European nations would want to stop trading with us. If anything, an exit would open up a massive new opportunity for trade from the UK. No longer hamstrung by trade barriers imposed by Brussels, we would look more closely to the 5.5 billion people who are not under the umbrella of Europe - a not inconsiderable opportunity. Like Switzerland, maybe we could begin to strike strong trade associations with China, something the EU has conspicuously failed to do.

The UK traded successfully for millennia prior to the imposition of the EU and will continue to do so after an exit, maybe even more successfully. The UK economy, in nominal GDP terms, is forecast to overtake that of Germany by 2030, making the UK the fourth biggest economy on earth. Without the shackles of the EU, that would put us in a compelling position for anyone with an entrepreneurial bone in their body.

According to the Department for Business Innovation & Skills, SMEs in the UK accounted for 99.3 per cent of all private sector companies in 2015 and for 60 per cent of all the country’s employment. Yet, despite language to the contrary, the very structure of the EU tips the balance of fairness to the benefit of larger international companies.

As anyone in the licensing industry will know, open border trading is a huge challenge to smaller companies trying to compete within the European Union.

Strong local manufacturers have all but disappeared in the face of competition from larger rivals who are able to trade at will across the continent, bringing with them the benefit of scale. Of course, the intent of the regulations is to increase competition, but the net effect is a race to the bottom on quality and a reduction of genuine choice as the innovation and points of difference of smaller players are driven out of the market in favour of the lowest common denominator.

And if you think that competition is a benefit to consumer pricing, consider the example of televised football: I used to get all the football I could shake a stick at through Sky, but that was considered a monopoly so they had to hive some off to ESPN and then further sell rights to BT. So now, to get the same package I had before, I would need contracts with three different companies – do you think I can get that for a better price than I paid before?

So, far from the dark seas perceived by Remainians, most Brexiteers see a bright horizon. Yes, there would be challenges in reaching it, but it’s hardly in the British spirit to turn away from a challenge now, is it?

But there is a third significant question raised by the prospect of walking away from Europe. Aside from the questions of sovereignty and economy, there is a real question about the future of the EU if we laid the foundations for countries to exit. It is difficult to believe that the German people would be happy with the status quo, shouldering the burden of the failed experiment of the Euro, and what of the smaller economies which have already been bankrupted by accession to the Eurozone – would Brexit spell the beginning of the end for the whole project? And do we have, in part, an obligation to prevent this by remaining?

It’s understandable that, saddled with the Eurozone mortgage, the Germans should be desperate for the EU’s second strongest economy to remain in the EU. But few can forget the German’s reaction in 1992 when Sterling came under unprecedented pressure and fell out of the ERM.

There was a pact between ERM member states that the strongest currency would prop up the weakest, buying into it to ensure it remained within the pre-determined tolerances of currency fluctuation. But the Bundesbank’s buying power was nowhere to be found, with officials even joining a conference call with the Bank of England in which they conveniently forgot how to speak English!

The strongest currency let the weakest (Sterling) get fed to the wolves and the UK withdrew the pound from the ERM, costing the British taxpayer an estimated £3.3Bn (a huge sum back then) and pushing the country into recession, yet politicians of the same nation now feel it is our moral obligation to help them as they continue to prop up Europe.

There is, of course, a genuine question as to whether or not we should do this. In fact, there is a moral question as to whether or not it would be the right thing to do at all. To continue along the course towards another inevitable currency crisis and default in the Eurozone, or take action which might bring about its painful but quicker end.

It’s for far greater economists than me to predict the outcome of the defaulting nations, but let’s face it, coming out of the ERM, once the initial pain had subsided, foretold significant growth in the British economy, handing Gordon Brown an enormous war chest when Labour came to power just five years later. Perhaps the same could happen for the Southern European nations if they were no longer under the yoke of the Euro and the control of their unelected government in Brussels.

The ultimate decision on whether to remain or leave is a huge one. The biggest question for the British electorate, possibly ever. And there are so many arguments on either side of the debate, with so little concrete evidence of consequence on either part, that each voter in this country must weigh up their voting decision on the balance of knowledge and probability. For me, the debate comes down to these three key areas – sovereignty, economic prosperity for Britain and economic future for other nations.

Every individual has their own choice in this vote and, despite the haranguing bile on social media, I am personally fascinated by the debate on both parts, welcoming views on both sides.

But the balance of my judgement tells me that my right to be governed by an organisation of the peoples’ choosing is better served by removing ourselves from the unelected EU; that our economy will probably suffer in the short term, but the wider horizons of international trade with the 74 per cent of the world who don’t live in the EU, in addition to continuing to trade with European nations, is a compelling opportunity; and that while I feel a strong pull to help out nations that do not live with our privileges, history tells us that this compulsion is not always mirrored by other states in Europe when it is the UK in need of assistance.

And there is a strong argument that a Brexit will simply promulgate the inevitable for financially weaker nations, protecting UK pockets from its impact and possibly driving the prospect of their recovery as we have seen in our own history.

A decision either way is momentous and tough, there is no clear cut right or wrong but on balance, and voting with reluctance and concern, I am out.