The Don’t Knows

Message discipline will be crucial if the “leave” campaign is going to successfully convince the British people that the future of their country lies oustide the EU. In that respect, TheKnow, which aspires to provide voters with “the facts” regarding Britain’s EU membership is (to put it politely) an uneasy ally. By way of example, TheKnow recently published this article, which I reproduce here in full, interleaved with comments of my own.

‘What will the UK leaving the EU mean for our country’s jobs?’ The key question surrounding the Brexit debate. There is plentiful evidence to more than suggest that businesses, including large multinationals, will continue to invest and employ in the UK if the country were to leave the EU.

I would say that the “key question surrounding the Brexit debate” is ‘Who should govern Britain?’ The EU’s supranational (“above the nation”) institutions are poorly suited to the common law traditions of this country. The intergovernmental model favoured by the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the world suits our form of governance much better. Indeed, the inward investment that Britain attracts is at least partially attributable to our political and judicial system, based upon the precept of “freedom under law”, which the EU tacks against.

Understandably, a flurry of stats and theories has not always provided the necessary reassurance to those who like the idea of the UK leaving the EU, but are fearful of the consequences. Only the employers can correct that concern, and that’s exactly what they are starting to do.

It is no business of business how the British choose to govern their own country. Employers who seek to influence the debate, one way or the other, should be told to ‘mind their own…’ This is an opportunity for the British people to correct an historic mistake. The assurance that Britain will continue to trade and co-operate with our EU allies, along with the rest of the world, should be sufficient to amelioriate business concerns.

Moreover, the Flexcit plan, written by Dr Richard North, outlines clear procedures for Britain’s EU withdrawal. As part of the Article 50 process, legislated for in the Treaty on European Union (as ammended by the Treaty of Lisbon), Britain and the EU will have two clear years to arrive at a negotiated settlement. Owing to the complexity involved in unravelling 40 years of political and economic integration, North recommends that, in the short term, Britain repatriate the entire acquis (body of EU law) and apply to rejoin the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in order to participate in the Single Market via the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement. I highly recommend reading over the entire document or, at the very least, the condensed version.

In response to questions on the potential impact of Brexit, Chairman and Managing Director of Vauxhall Motors, Tim Tozer said yesterday, “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.”

As for [sic] as Tozer is concerned, it would be ‘unthinkable’ for the UK to not follow up the access to the common market it currently enjoys as an EU member with an expansive trade agreement, one that stops far short of political integration. Post exit, it will be just as easy for the UK to buy and sell goods and services with the rest of Europe as it ever was. As a consequence, there is no disincentive for companies to set up in the UK, let alone an incentive for existing businesses to leave.

These ‘reasurances’ are worthless unless you can explain how we arrive at this new relationship. The “remains” have just as many businessmen (if not more) that can be called upon should we grant these people such undeserved prominence and authority. The legal certainty of an Article 50 negotiation and the assurance of continuity guaranteed by repatriating the entire acquis and adopting an “off-the-shelf” agreement, in the short term, is much more credible than relying upon the “prestige” of senior business figures.

3 million jobs may be dependent on trade with rest of Europe, but the notion that those jobs would be at risk if the UK were to leave the EU is baseless [only if we have a coherent exit plan]. Just look at the US, the UK’s biggest trading partner and a country with whom it has no free trade agreement [trade is an exclusive EU “competence”; as EU member states, neither Britain nor France, nor Germany, nor Poland, nor Slovakia, etc. has a single “free trade agreement” with any other country. Trade agreements are negotiated by the European Commission on behalf of all the EU member states]. It is also worth bearing in mind that many of the disputed 3 million jobs are also dependent on trade with the rest of the world, markets, like the US where the UK nor the rest of the EU does not currently benefit from preferential trade access [sic – this is not a sentence, ed.].

Tozer’s comments were echoed a day earlier by Nissan Europe Chairman, Paul Willcox. Faced with similar questions over the EU, Willcox emphasized the outstanding performance of Nissan’s factory in Sunderland, “probably the most productive car plant in Western Europe.”

Wilcox [sic – you had it spelled right the first and second time] cited the strength of manufacturing in the the North East, helpfully broadening the debate. Scaremongering over the potential loss of jobs has sidelined the fact that over the past few years, the UK has created more jobs than the rest of Europe put together. The North East is one of several success stories across the land, contrasting markedly with the rest of the EU.

The question over leaving the EU is not just about protecting existing jobs, but capitalizing on the country’s huge untapped potential. Brexit means new trade opportunities with the rest of the world, and re-regulating the economy to make life easier for businesses so that they can employ more staff. TheKnow.EU takes a positive perspective, and not without good reason.

The relevant point about regulation is that the EU currently speaks on our behalf in the global forums where these matters are actually agreed. Promises to change the regulatory environment are meaningless without specifying ‘what’ you will change and ‘how’ you plan to change it. The decision to leave the EU is so much bigger than all of this and is fundamentally about principles not details.

Final note to TheKnow: hire a proof-reader.

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