First, I’ll put my cards on the table. I make my living through trading US stocks exclusively in US Dollars, and my software business which is largely in US Dollars.
A Brexit vote will mean a collapse in Sterling.
A collapse in Sterling will mean my US Dollars are worth more in UK Pounds.
A Brexit vote would be good for me personally, especially in the short term. Market fluctuations would be there to take advantage of, and my dollars will convert to more pounds.
Happy days … so why am I voting Remain?
Well, it was a close run thing. There are lies and damned statistics on both sides. But ultimately I changed my mind on Monday for reasons I’ll try to summarize here.
We should be celebrating this referendum
For those who say they are fed up with all the Brexit talk and this referendum, I say try living in Russia or any other undemocratic state and see how you like that!
The chance to have a say is an incredible privilege despite all the misinformation that both sides have shamelessly spouted.
Real and pertinent information IS available if you can be bothered to go and find it but it won’t readily come from politicians or the media. It won’t reach you if you’re passive and only swallow drama-inciting sound bites. You have to go and hunt for that information … which means the terrifying task of using Google from the comfort of your own living room.
The quality of information spewed by the mainstream media and politicians has been woeful. But at least it has been light years more informative and grown up than the absurd Republican leadership debates which never emerged from the junior high school yard – and now the GOP has the nominee it deserves, and the one whom the media craved (for its ratings).
I flip-flopped until Monday
Until Monday I had been a serial flip-flopper in this referendum. The only thing I knew was that I wasn’t getting reliable information on which to base my decision. So I went and hunted for it.
Ultimately it boiled down to legal realities, economic facts, plus the personalities involved and their personal agendas. What I have ignored is the inflammatory soundbites designed to misinform and rouse up the respective rabbles on both sides.
The Numbers (Economics)
This piece of the puzzle is the easiest to decipher.
Economically most agree that Brexit would result in a self-induced hiccup at the very least. I’m skeptical of the so-called experts who always get wheeled out to give their views but also seem to miss the major market shifts. However, it is intriguing that hardly anyone of any credibility is on the Leave side.
I’m no economist, but much like Elliott Wave and Fibonacci fanatics, they typically get things wrong anyway. Back in the 1990s many so-called experts bemoaned Britain for not being part of the single currency. Yet opting out of the single currency and keeping the Pound has been an unmitigated triumph as the Euro lurches from crisis to crisis.
But the Euro is just one piece of our relationship with the EU. And, by the way, a demonstration of how Britain has succeeded in extracting the best deal for itself while still being part of the club.
Here are some of the widely accepted consequences if Britain leaves the EU:
- Many trade deals will have to be renegotiated.
- This will cause massive uncertainty for the foreseeable future.
- Uncertainty will mean businesses will hesitate to invest in the UK until its situation is clear.
- Reduced investment will lead to job losses.
- Job losses will lead to less tax revenues.
- Less tax revenues will lead to either more austerity measures or increased taxes.
Trade deals take years (even decades) to negotiate. So the uncertainty is guaranteed to last considerably more than months. And that’s before you factor in that countries including the US and China have confirmed that Britain would become a lower priority for them if it is outside the EU.
As a single entity with much legal disentangling to do, even being the fifth largest economy in the world, Britain will slide down the pecking order when it comes to other countries negotiating trade deals with us.
That’s because Britain would be less relevant without it being a gateway into the EU. Many foreign businesses deal enthusiastically with Britain because once they succeed here, they have a stepping stone into the EU and its market of 500million customers. Remove the gateway and you remove much of the attraction of investing in the UK in the first place.
In conclusion, logic dictates that leaving the EU would be highly risky economically for the UK. The uncertainty would certainly last for years, leading to an investment vacuum which would affect lives of everyday people.
Forget the concept of EU migrants pushing wages down. If Britain leaves the EU, jobs will be under threat due to lower inward investment. This is hard to argue against with any real credibility.
The Leave campaigners argue that any downturn would be a mere short-term blip, but they support this with no tangible explanations. Rather their arguments focus on a triumphalist “Let’s show the world what we can do”, “Don’t underestimate the British people”, and the hypocritical accusations of “Project Fear” for which both sides are guilty.
The EU is basically a club. The net fees in (which are consistently misrepresented by Leave) are dwarfed by the uncounted economic benefit (investment, jobs, trade, tax revenues) of being in the club AND being a gateway for other non EU countries to sell into the EU. Leave and we can no longer be the gateway.
If Britain leaves the EU the more likely scenario would be a medium-long term systemic shift which would imperil foreign investment into the UK. The UK receives more inward investment than any other EU country, and to put this at risk would be reckless at best.
Ultimately I deal in the business of risk. We never make a trade without understanding the risk. We don’t fully understand the risk of the UK leaving the EU. That makes it a risk too far for me.
A tale of two businessmen:
I know two friends who are hugely successful in real estate. One is a commercial agent dealing largely with huge foreign investors, the other is a commercial developer.
The agent is firmly in the Remain camp because his clients have made it clear that they will pull out if we leave. This will be detrimental to the property market, both in terms of valuations and the flow of money which is fueled by transactions.
Foreign money is already leaving our shores merely due to the prospect of Brexit. If Brexit becomes a reality, the floodgates will inevitably open.
The developer is voting Leave because he knows asset values will tumble and he wants to buy on the cheap.
Where the developer may be misguided is in how quickly values would recover. He may need to wait a long time.
The fact is that they both agree on the short term adverse effects of a Brexit. But there is no telling what the medium to long term effects will be.
There is no plan for a Brexit because there can be no plan. There can be no plan because there will be the spiral of uncertainty combined with lower inward investment.
Vote Leave means Britain will be poorer, that is almost certain. And that will affect the man on the street in terms of public services, job security and even his holidays.
The legal picture, migration and sovereignty
The economic arguments for Remain are compelling, but it’s the legal realities that have finally tilted me firmly in the Remain camp.
If we leave the EU, it is reasonable to assume that Britain will still want access to the single market. As with other non-EU countries, this will come at a price:
A fee commensurate with the net fees we already pay for being a member state
Free movement of people would be a condition of single market participation as per other non EU countries like Norway.
So, what would we actually gain? Not a lot.
Britain is a sovereign nation under international law. Our parliament and central bank is the supreme law-making authority in this country and controls economic policy, law and order, interest rates, taxation, etc.
The Leave campaign talks jingoistically of sovereignty and “taking back control”. Britain already has control of interest rates, taxes, laws. The Bank of England controls interest rates.
As Prof Michael Dougan correctly says, “The EU is not a sovereign entity. It has only those powers which it’s been given under the EU treaties. And if the UK courts sometimes give priority to EU law in the event of a conflict with domestic law, it’s purely because our Parliament has expressly instructed them to do so in our own legislation.”
For more information about this, watch the Professor Michael Dougan lecture where he outlines the legal realities, free of rhetoric and hyperbole. Dougan is Professor of European Law at the University of Liverpool.
I do worry about immigration. As awful as it may sound, I do not want uncontrolled migration from the Middle East pouring into the UK. I would rather our foreign policy gives potential refugees safe havens in their own countries, and that we exert our influence and military power to deliver stability in Syria, Iraq and Libya.
Once again, the facts are being obscured.
We have been able to determine how many refugees enter the UK. David Cameron has been lambasted for his lack of compassion (ie pragmatism) while Angela Merkel was praised for her more generous (or reckless) stance.
The reality is that Britain was able to determine its own response to the crisis.
The next point is that EU migrants constitute less than 50% of the net migration into the UK. The non-EU migration is entirely in the UK’s hands.
Furthermore, EU migrants cannot be benefit migrants. In other words they must be net contributors to the UK economy or the will leave. People complain that migrant workers are driving down wages, but this is simply not the fact.
Also, remember in the 1950s (ie before we were in the EEC as it was then) the UK welcomed many Caribbean people to work in public services, particularly public transport and the NHS. These people did the jobs that many indigenous Brits simply did not want to do. The Caribbean influence on British society has been overwhelmingly positive.
While uncontrolled migration cannot be allowed, the reality is that EU free movement of people is not increasing the UK population as much as external EU immigration into the UK.
Last, there is the case of Brits who emigrate away to EU countries. Statistically those who leave the UK are largely made up of economical non-contributors, pensioners seeking warmer climes, etc. Conversely, those migrating to the UK are those seeking jobs, and making a valuable contribution at affordable prices.
So, while immigration is a legitimate concern, a closer look at the facts reveals that the EU is less than 50% of our issue, and now not enough to sway me to Leave.
People ignore history at their peril. Europe is enjoying its longest period of peace ever, and the EU, with all its annoyances, is without question a contributory factor.
Interesting is that the more extreme factions of politics are those in favour of Brexit, while more moderate thinkers are for Remain. This is an important factor for me.
A vote out will result in more countries demanding their own referendums, fueled by jingoistic far right parties. Do you really fancy the likes of Le Pen getting in power?
We’ve been there before … far better to demand change from within. The UK has been able to procure different deals and there is no reason why it cannot demand more.
There is no question that while both sides have promoted their own ‘Project Fear’ campaigns, the Leave campaign is guilty of the most outrageous dishonesty and fear-mongering in their campaign.
- Turkey is not about to join the EU
- 60% of our laws are not made by Brussels – this figure is a wild overstatement
- The European Court of Justice is separate from the EU
- EU benefits migration is simply not a reality, and there are measures in place to prevent it from becoming a serious one.
Now about some of those Leave characters and personalities:
Of course there are many but to keep this section short I’ll highlight just a few.
Although he was a good London Mayor, has there ever been a more blatant attempt for a power grab than this? Not long ago Boris Johnson was a keen advocate for further EU integration and Turkey’s inclusion. Yet now, sensing an opportunity to rise to leader of the Conservative Party (and therefore Prime Minister) in the event of a Brexit, he has skillfully peddled myths, untruths and repeated the old “Project Fear” soundbite, in lieu of hard facts which of course he avoids deftly.
He tub-thumps the line of “Don’t underestimate the British people”, but what does that actually mean? If inward investment isn’t forthcoming, what are we going to do? It’s simply a guff of hot air, which gets the mob excited but doesn’t actually mean anything at all.
James Dyson is one of the few business leaders in favour of Brexit. He is an amazing pioneer, but let’s remember that he manufactures his vacuums out of Malaysia not the UK. I want to hear from business leaders who are based in the UK, and run their operations from the UK.
While there are notable exceptions, the fact is the vast majority of UK-based business and union leaders are firmly in the Remain camp. The same goes for our allies.
A single-policy (Leave the EU) party, UKIP is the acceptable face of the far right in the UK.
Long on charismatic leadership, long on crazy members, long on deeply selective and isolated facts-turned-soundbites, but woefully short on well-balanced rounded arguments based in defendable facts.
UKIP represent the nutters running the nut-house. Their contribution to the Leave campaign is riddled with inaccuracies, fear tactics and blatant untruths.
Of course like any good liar, some of what they say is true, but in amongst their other propaganda, not enough to bring me aboard.
For some fun on this entire subject – and the extent to which the Leave campaign will distort facts, see this excellent video by John Oliver.
The EU needs reform. It is a bloated organization with much to dislike.
However, it does contribute to stability, to peace, to economic prosperity (particularly for the UK which has exerted its right to remain outside the single currency Eurozone).
A vote for Leave is a vote for a leap into the unknown, sponsored by alarmingly dishonest statements from agenda driven advocates. There will also be an economic shock which all sides effectively concede will happen, but which no-one knows how far and how long it will last.
A vote for Remain is a vote for logic and common sense. Every one of the UK’s allies, inside Europe, the Commonwealth or elsewhere like China has implored us to remain. They have warned Britain that it will be pushed down the food chain of importance should it choose Leave.
Business and union leaders have implored us to remain in the EU. These people are often at polar opposites of the spectrum and yet they overwhelmingly agree on this one issue.
And while I would stand to benefit personally from a Leave vote due to market fluctuations that I can exploit and a devastated Pound that is to my advantage, I am voting Remain.
If you’re still in doubt, do watch those videos again …
Bye for now.