Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Let’s vote for the right reasons

Malcolm Thomson, BESA President

The EU Referendum is being ambushed by the paranoia of immigration and the anti-establishment voter, says Jim Marner.

In the welter of argument and counter-argument, thousands of next week's voters have lost sight of what actually leaving the EU will involve and, therefore, many will vote for the wrong reason and in answer to the wrong question.

The economy and our future economic prospects should be front and centre, but the reasoned and balanced judgements of thousands of business leaders and economists are being submerged under an avalanche of scare mongering comments about immigration and those who simply want to make an anti-establishment protest vote.

I can think of few other occasions in history when almost every economist has held the same opinion on an issue. The business community is more divided, but at least they are basing their analysis on valid strategic arguments.

For example, the CBI has said a vote Leave would “put British businesses out in the cold”; business leaders in Norway, Canada and Switzerland, who have negotiated trading deals with the EU from outside, say we would do much better by staying in; and Rolls Royce says Brexit would “limit any company's ability to plan and budget for the future”.


The Leave campaign argues that UK companies would be freed from the burden of EU regulation and that we would be able to negotiate trade deals because they would consider us a vital trading partner. 

The Remain argument is that Brexit would cause an economic shock and growth would be slower. Our level of exports to the EU is such that any disruption to our ‘tariff free’ agreements could send us back into recession and, if we want to continue trading with our European partners, we would still have to abide by EU rules and regulations - so what's the benefit of leaving?

UK construction has had three difficult years since the recession and it would be irresponsible of us to jeopardise the current growth that we are starting to see from new investment. We need a period of stability.

UK construction, manufacturing and farming are hugely dependent on the skilled operatives who come to us from the EU so let's not confuse that with the mass illegal immigration or uncontrolled movement of people. The tragic irony is that, if we vote to leave there is unlikely to be any reduction in the number of migrants coming here. In fact, without the co-operation of our European partners it will be even harder to manage the flow of migrants in our direction.

In the last few days, I would urge everyone to get back on track and consider what is really at stake. Be wary of just taking an anti-establishment stand and – whatever way you do go – surely you have to be able to say afterwards that you decided on the right issues? We must make sure we are well read and that we ignore the scare tactics otherwise future generations will be living with the consequences of a decision we took on their behalf for the wrong reasons.

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