Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Go to hell, Lucy Thomas!

I think Andy Wigmore of Leave.EU knows full well that if I thought he was being a complete cretin I would say so. It would not be the first time if I did. But in this regard, Mr Wigmore is not saying anything all that shocking. He is being pragmatic and honest in a way that would escape the understanding of Lucy Thomas (Deputy Director, Britain Stronger In Europe) given that she is manifestly incapable of honesty.

Her operation has been busy cherry-picking the most doom-leaden prognostications from a somewhat dishonestly framed survey of economists. If you take the time to examine each comment you'll see a wider array of views than is presented - and much of it hinges on the process of leaving, rather than the fact we would cease to be in the EU.

What it all hinges on is this whimsical notion of "uncertainty". Some have it that the very process of having a referendum creates uncertainty and harms investment. But there's a problem here. Democracy doesn't provide certainty. That is largely why the most unethical corporates in the world prefer to do business in those nations where there is nothing approaching democracy.

But in terms of risk, looking at the new line up in the shadow cabinet, I would expect these same economists and pundits to declare that a Corbyn government would damage the economy and be a threat to national security. Yet, strangely, nobody is making the case that we should not have an election and nobody is saying that an election deters investment.

Their words should really be treated with a great deal of suspicion. They are saying that their financial concerns trump any desire of the people to have political change. It may cause them to lose money as the teenage button pushers and ticket scribblers in the Square Mile get jittery over things they know nothing about.

To me it suggests their investments are poorly placed if they are at the mercy of computer algorithms based on the habits of city traders who have very little direct knowledge of the politics of Brexit. Certainly no more than accountants and economists do.

The fact of the matter is uncertainty is one of those features of democratic nations - and if business doesn't like it, they can go to one of the despotic countries that doesn't bother with democracy. What they will find is a less developed business environment with worse infrastructure, where it is harder to find skilled people and staff are frequently ill. Let them go to those nations where roads are not maintained and traffic is not regulated. Let them have all the certainty they could possibly want.

The fact is, we on the Leave side freely admit that Brexit, if mishandled, could cause a recession. We're not naive or dishonest enough to pretend otherwise. But we are also mindful of something else. A recession for us is a recession for the EU as well, thus, every effort will be made in good faith to ensure it is done well. The notion that we should never contemplate political change on the basis of uncertainty is the politics of a tyrant and a cynic.

That said if Brexit goes as we anticipate by way of a single market based solution, I would certainly be unshocked if it had little short term effect on anything save for the currency markets - which would rapidly settle down.

What I will say is that yes, there may be a marginal amount of short term disruption involved. No worthwhile change ever comes without it. But if that is what we must endure for a future where the vote of British citizens counts for something then so be it. If Ms Thomas doesn't like it, she would do well to ponder the nature of the organisation she defends and her Westminster bedfellows - for it is they who put us in this place to begin with: Locked into a stifling and subordinate relationship without a voice at the top tables.

As a closing thought I would add that this has never been an economic question. We do not exist for the convenience of the corporates, nor is it any of their business who governs us. It is not about their balance sheet or even about the balance sheet of the nation. In this I am reminded of a certain quote from George Brown, a former Foreign Secretary:

"I think not so much about the thousand years of history behind us, but about the thousand years, or, maybe, the hundred years, in front of us. We are not deciding today how much my wife will pay for bacon tomorrow or next year. We are talking about my children, my children's children and my children's children's children, what Britain will be 50 or 100 years from now. What road do we see for Britain? We have for a thousand years played a significant role in the world. What we are now discussing is how we go on playing that rĂ´le in the world, and where".

In that estimate, when I balance the candid and honest remarks of Mr Wigmore against the cynical, calculating and dishonest campaign mounted by Ms Thomas, I am more inclined to side with Leave.EU however questionable Mr Wigmore's judgement is at times. This is, and always has been, about democracy. Uncertainty is part of the deal. The corporates and well sinecured political class are not entitled to certainty and we would be diminished were that ever the case. Who governs us is a question for the people, not the economists.

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