Well, this is a blog I thought I’d never write! So, after exercising my democratic right to vote in the recent referendum, a right won for me at great cost by my predecessors on this earth, I find my Facebook page full of people directly or indirectly attacking the process, or my own views, providing ceaseless ‘evidence’ as to why it’s a terrible idea and demanding not only a new referendum (presumably so that a ‘proper’ result can be achieved by the Remainers) but also ALL the answers to ‘what happens now’ like I’m sort sort of prophet-cum-expert on all things Brexit. After all, I voted that way, right?
So let’s clear a few things up. Just from my perspective of course, not the whole thing, since that’s way beyond my remit. Let’s start with the referendum itself.
It’s democracy. That’s how it works. You give the people a choice and you’d better be prepared for the outcome. The majority spoke, 52% to 48%. Not a massive margin admittedly (what’s a million and a half people between friends?!) but a winning vote by any standard. And did you know, by the way, that split by MP constituency, 422 out of 650 voted ‘Leave’. That’s just shy of 65% to 35% or, translated into General Election terms, a pretty bloody impressive victory. Put it this way, the current majority Conservative government has 330 seats. Yup, go check it, it’s all true.
Second, let’s deal with the one issue that really gets my goat at the moment and is likely to lead to strong language. You ‘hard done by’, yet simultaneously insanely spoilt, young people. Yes, you, the people we ‘older’ (steady on, I’m only mid forties) types deliberately went out and ‘shat on’, to quote many, many Facebook sources simultaneously. The people who’s future we ripped away so callously by voting Leave. The people who have thanked and congratulated us in whiney sarcastic voices for ‘fucking up the country and our futures’ Yes, those people. And yes, I am being deliberately harsh and unsympathetic because you DO realize that nearly two thirds of your generation couldn’t actually be arsed to vote, don’t you? In one fell swoop you managed to to spectacularly demonstrate why your views aren’t taken seriously AND illustrate why so many of us ‘older lot’ get bloody frustrated at you when you start moaning about how all unfair it all is and why it all isn’t on a plate for you. Because even on a matter of this importance, on which you have been so keen to be so vocal on social media from the comfort of your smartphone and with so much time to get yourself organised, it was still just a bit too much hassle to actually vote wasn’t it?
In precise terms it’s 64% of the 18-24 age group who didn’t make it to a polling station on the day it mattered. Why? Was it a bit inconvenient? Was there something good on telly?Was it because you couldn’t do it on an App (swipe left for Leave, swipe right for Remain)? You DO realize that if you HAD actually managed that five minute walk that many of your much older countrymen somehow managed to do, dragging their old, decrepit bodies in the process, the United Kingdom would be firmly in the Remain camp? Well, according to what you’re telling us now anyway, but you’ll forgive me if I’ll not believe you. And no, we’re not having a second referendum just for lazy slobs like you to not turn up to again. “Soz” … as your generation like to say.
That said, those of you in that age group who DID vote Remain clearly didn’t get their way and that must be a concern going forward. But perhaps not as much as you think, as we’ll see in a moment.
That’s the only emotive issue I’ll deal with, I promise. I’ll calm down now.
There IS an argument to say that a decision of this nature is far, far too important to us lay people. It is SO complex, so far reaching and so long lasting that even politicians who are directly involved in it day to day cannot fully understand every detail or nuance. What chance then do we, with our limited, often incorrect understanding, our own self-interest rearing it’s inevitable head and a disastrous campaign on both sides of misinformation, lies, accusations and even bigger lies? What chance indeed.
As for me, I spent many, many hours researching articles, information and comparing the views of people I knew, respected and trusted. Not just people with money, properties and international businesses who I am fortunate enough to know, but those who are connectors, who bring deals, people or opportunities together at any level. People who do, who make a difference, who go out and get involved in any way, shape or form. My area of interest has always been macro economics and although my formal qualifications in this field go no further than A’s at A-levels, it’s a subject I have always followed avidly and still do to this day. It was this one issue that I felt I was able to competently vote on. The others, such as immigration and sovereignty, less so, except where drawing on my own experiences and where they affect the economic argument, as they all do in some way shape or form.
That said, it was, of course, extraordinarily difficult to get any accurate data from either side and therein lies (pun intended) an additional problem. I say this to the ladies and gentlemen of the Leave and Remain campaigns: “This was NOT your finest hour. Be ashamed of how you handled yourselves and how you addressed us, how you (mis) informed us and turned to fiction and fear when facts didn’t fit. Be ashamed. Be VERY ashamed.”
But that doesn’t give us a convenient scapegoat to blame for our voting preferences either. Far from it. It just increases the effort required, and requires going beyond the statements and the soundbites – and only some people will do this. Hidden deep in the shouting, the endless ruckus, the bickering and name calling, there were sensible, quiet voices. Men and women of wisdom, often offering little known and inconvenient truths, and logical minds dealing with facts and data. I like facts and data. Not their ferrel cousins ‘extrapolated statistics’ and ‘guessimated forecasts’ mind, but real, verified, undisputed facts. They really are there, they’re just shy and need coaxing out.
Does this mean I am an economic savant who can now soothingly reassure you that all is well and we, the mighty British, can now rest easy with our 5th largest economy in the world and, while we’re at it, rescue the world from certain recession?
But we could.
Of course, we could also make a total and utter mess of it and wipe ourselves out at the same time.
The fact is, either scenario is possible once the already legendary Article 50 is ratified and finally invoked. It’s going to come down to leadership, belief, confidence and negotiating skills. And in this area it IS true we suddenly find ourselves, temporarily, at a bit of a loss with resignations aplenty from all sides and camps.
That said, like the outcome of the referendum itself, I have extreme and total confidence in our ability to ‘storm, form and norm’ our way through both in terms of leader, process and economics. Necessity really IS the mother of invention and nothing reveals our creative problem solving skills like a dramatic direction change such as this. There is no handbook. There are no blue prints. We, my friends, are making history. And we’re going to have a damn bumpy ride on the way, there is no dressing that up, but ultimately we’re going to come out better than ever.
Why? Because personally I believe the EU no longer serves us well. In fact, it no longer serves many countries well. Germany is too strong for it, and many other countries are too weak for it. Greece and the other struggling countries such as Spain and Italy, have no realistic chance of regaining their financial strength without devaluing, which is, of course, impossible when you’re using a common currency. But that is their issue and we clearly have our own.
When we joined the EU we were in a bloody mess. It was the early seventies and the country was suffering power cuts, strikes, three day weeks, bad haircuts, flares and an obsession with brown and orange. And while we were bickering amongst ourselves, a new European powerhouse was forming and going from strength to strength. Joining was a no brainer and there’s no real doubt that the UK’s prosperity is partly due to our involvement here and what we got back.
Fast forward 40 years and we’re suddenly part of the only trading bloc whose GDP has declined year on year since 2007, whilst effectively being locked out of trading groups that are experiencing double digit growth. Yes, this is a simplification in many ways, but it’s fundamentally true. And not only has our trading position globally reduced as a result, we’re finding ourselves completely beholden to the laws and regulations of the EU, now itself a bloated, wasteful and hugely expensive iteration of its former self. Only 6% of UK companies trade with the EU by the way, but 100% must comply with regulations. It’s a fascinating statistic. And yes I know the sums of money are still vast and skewed towards the 6%, the issue way more complex and all sorts of mitigating arguments valid, but for me, it all came down to this: Do I think the UK would fare better in the long run, economically speaking, ‘outside’ of the EU? For me, the answer is yes. The EU’s trading decline is set to continue for the foreseeable future, there is enormous instability with the currency and the economies of certain member states and a whole host of other issues that are unresolved.
It’s a bit like being in the wrong relationship. There’s good times, there may even be love there, but in your heart of hearts you know it’s not right. The big question is, do you stick with ‘the devil you know’ or break it off for good and come to an amicable agreement about the kids? There’s always the possibility you could end up lonely, and certainly you will be worse off in the short term as you adjust, move out and face the challenges of a life on your own, but you might also find the love of your life. Tough call when you don’t know exactly what the future holds. But isn’t that true in life generally?
At the end of the day, there are lots of amazing facts and figures about economics I could blurb out here and they’re all freely available on the internet (beware of using reputable sources and double check the numbers of course!). But there are many, many ways to interpret them as well, and this, being my blog ‘an all, is all about my own interpretation of that data. In short, I am happy to go on record and say we will be better off in 2-5 years time than we would have been if we’d stayed in the EU. There, I said it.
Before I sign off I’d like to mention some other points. Travel in the EU? Maybe we’ll need a visa, maybe not. The EHIC system? Maybe we’ll need to spend more on travel insurance. Living abroad? Maybe we’ll have to fit certain criteria that we don’t have to now. Y’know, like you do when you move to any other country in the world. Think security cooperation is going to end? Really? Think again. Think Euro tariffs will end our trade with our former friends? It’ll never happen. If there’s one thing we can always count on with politicians (because there isn’t much) it’s that they’ll follow the money. And there’s vast amounts of it being traded as we speak, neither side will risk losing it in an escalating tariff war, and the WTO would have something to say about that anyway. I also suspect Switzerland, the US, Australia, China, Canada would all like to have a chat as soon as possible regarding a bit of business, but we’ll see.
So, what’s the conclusion? It’s done, the people have spoken, the journey has begun. Whether you agree or not, you’re on the road with us. Personally, I don’t believe the doom mongers are right, there’s no need for emergency budgets and I don’t believe house prices are going to be dropping substantially anytime soon due, simply, to supply issues. Sure, there may be some short term sterling weakness and maybe a bit of play in the BoE rates, but I believe we can actually come out stronger in the end. And, as with so much in life, it’s often up to us as individuals, rather than our government, to make it work or otherwise.
So if you’ll excuse me, I’d best go and get on with it.