Business supports Britain’s EU membership …. …..doesn’t it?

An INEOS plant. The boss says there’ll be no chemicals industry in Europe in ten years.

An INEOS plant. The boss says there’ll be no chemicals industry in Europe in ten years.

Whenever we get into a debate about EU membership, the euro-luvvies will come up with the assertion that all of British business, and all the British businesses groups like the CBI and BCC, support EU membership.  Heads of large companies, especially auto companies, insist that if Britain leaves the EU, jobs and investment will be under threat, and businesses will move out of the UK and into remaining EU member-states.  These guys must know the score, surely?  They must be right?  Well maybe not.

Let’s take the auto companies head-on.  That’s people like Carlos Ghosn of Nissan – a big wheel in the auto businesses.  He says that future investment would be under threat if Britainleft the EU.  But then he was saying exactly the same fifteen years ago — but then it was “If Britain doesn’t join the €uro”.  That was a vast error of judgement, and it doesn’t give us any confidence in his judgement in these matters.  And given Nissan’s close links with Renault, we have to recognise a conflict of interests.  Does Ghosn speak for Nissan?  Or for President Fançois Hollande?

If it’s so important to be in the EU, how come the Ford Motor Company chose to close its van operations in Hampshire and move them outside the EU — to Turkey?  Part of the incentive was an £80 bn loan from the European Investment Bank, but they must also be confident that they can service the EU market from Turkey.

Maybe ten years ago, you’d have heard the same from the City of London.  As a global financial centre, many City figures took it for granted that the City had to be in the EU.  Nowadays you’ll get a much more mixed reaction — especially in private.  They’ve seen a series of irresponsible decisions, from bonus caps to the Financial Transaction Tax, which have been ill-thought-out and pursued with a reckless disregard for the EU’s most important financial centre — or as some would say, a deliberate determination to damage one of the UK’s major industries, and to teach a lesson to those troublesome Anglo-Saxons

Why are these senior business people happier to speak in private?  We need to recognise that the EU wields enormous influence — far too much, in fact.  So companies that want to modify the rules need to mollify the beast.  Businesses and industries are simply afraid to speak out against Brussels, for fear their lobbying efforts are ignored when new rules are crafted.  Or that they lose lucrative contracts, or are otherwise disadvantaged.  I’ve lost count of the times when I have attacked EU policies in open meetings in Brux or Straz, and afterwards industry people have thanked me for stating a common-sense view.  But they add “We’re glad you said it, but of course you understand why we can’t speak out so vigorously”.  Indeed I do.  It’s a bit like all the organisations that feel they need to pay lip-service to climate orthodoxy — yet get their people privately over a coffee or a beer, and they sing a different tune.

Of course it simply isn’t true that all businesses back EU membership — although I accept that a majority probably do, at least in public.  But you only need to check the Business for Britain web-site to find hundreds of British firms that take a different view.

It’s easy to assume that the Captains of Industry really understand the issues of EU membership.  But I suspect that they don’t.  I spent 33 years in management positions in international businesses, and I’ve now spent fifteen years in the European parliament.  So I’ve seen the question from both sides.  And I suspect that most of the senior business people who pontificate about the EU couldn’t explain the difference between a Free Trade Area and a Customs Union (I suspect that the cuddly/fluffy term “Common Market” was deliberately designed to preserve this ambiguity).  And they couldn’t, off the top of their heads, define “optimal currency area”’

Could you, I hear you ask?  Well how about: “An optimal currency area is an area which is sufficiently large, and sufficiently uniform, that the benefits of a common currency, in terms of predictability and elimination of exchange costs within the area, significantly exceed the disadvantages of a one-size-fits-all monetary and interest rate policy”.   The Isle of Wight is too small to be an optimal currency area, while the Eurozone is — not too large — but far too diverse, in terms of member-states’ economic performance and cycles, to be an optimal currency area.

Energy-intensive businesses in particular are voting with their feet and leaving the EU — or at least switching their investment outside the EU.  Jim Ratcliffe of major chemical company Ineos has said that under present policies there won’t be a chemical industry left in the EU in ten years time.  BASF, Germany’s chemical giant, has said that it will shift the majority of its investment outside the EU for the first time, and blames European energy prices.  Siemens takes a similar view.

The EU is bad for business.  Brexit potentially offers lower taxes, lower energy prices, more rational regulation, lower costs.  What’s not to like?

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15 Responses to Business supports Britain’s EU membership …. …..doesn’t it?

  1. tapestry says:

    UKIP’s policy on fracking/shale gas/drilling/CBM. Change it.

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      Its heading this way, so for businesses that are not mates of the fairies in Westminster…tough! Same to domestic users. Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss discussing the green blob with Andrew Neil: (Sunday Politics)

      CCS (not proven in EU/UK) contributes to the 80% CO2 reduction (legal requirement) and technology will bring a result over the next 10 years or so? Coal power stations to be closed and gas continues somehow. Wind Turbines….more probably. Nuclear…just wait for the screw ups during build.

      Interconnectors…not mentioned?

      Would you invest big money here on the above prospect?

      I believe the reduction in subsidy to the agri solar panels she announced is a few quid. No impact.

      • Wun Hung Lo says:

        I saw this video and whither now the relevance of CO2 ?

        If CO2 is still rising and the temperature is not, the by empirical observation, CO2 does not cause Global Warming. Therefore Man-Made CO2 certainly does not cause any danger at all. So not to abandon this ridiculous charade of “Carbon” reductions is a giant fraud on the peoples of the Britain, and the rest of the World as well.

        Confucius say —-
        “When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it – this is knowledge.”

        “When you have faults, do not fear to abandon them.”

        Oh wise Confucius !

  2. sogoesit8008 says:

    An interesting comment given above, very authoritarian, and without any argument. Must be a communist or a fascist!

  3. Peter G says:

    In order that one can respond, perhaps ‘tapestry’ could explain; I can’t decipher his / her comment, and I suspect I’m not the only one.

  4. patriot says:

    I can really see all the car manufacturers in Germany, France etc. stopping the export of cars to the UK. Also not selling us windfarm turbines and solar panels. Would it not be nice to only buy cars made in this country, I can see makers letting that market go! Better still if the makers were British so the profits would stay here also..
    When one sees the masses of Euro noses in the trough at EU meetings it`s no wonder that it takes so much money to run it.
    We have been sold down the river by all our leaders over the years, who end up with lucrative none jobs at the end of office, Blair, Kinnock, Campbell etc. etc.
    What Hitler would not have given for them to have been here in 1939
    Angela is playing it very differently.

  5. Mike Stallard says:

    Thank you for that frank and expert opinion – much appreciated. Our energy policy, both within the UK and within the EU is now just about a decade out of date. It needs changing very fast. So bring back Mr Paterson.
    And repeal the Climate Change Act!

  6. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Car jobs and allied in the EU appear to be troubled of late. And the EU is there to shovel out support monies.

    Wonder what those manufacturers can claim for shifting their game around the EU? Ford got something large to move to Turkey. Don’t think the Japanese economic state allows the likes of Nissan to say much…need the money, so stay quiet….smile!

    Some of the French move their businesses to London…wonder why? And then of course we have to follow both the EU and USA and kick all Russian businesses. Still waiting for those cheap peaches…oh, they were dumped or like tomatoes, thrown around the place/at people.

    Energy…umm, lets have 27% renewables in the messed up mix. Smart thinking ?

    People get paid for this ?

  7. Techno says:

    Just checked the date of the closure of the Ford Transit factory in Southampton and it was 2013, so we haven’t had a General Election since that. Factory closures often change people’s opinions and, having grown up in Southampton, I know that people were very proud that it was made there.

    Southampton voters in the past often voted Lib Dem in the past to counter the Conservatives, but with the collapse of the Lib Dem vote, possibly this could be a breakthrough ares for UKIP in 2015.

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      Thanks Techno. I too grew up in Southampton. King Edward VI School, Hill Lane. Used to do cross-country runs on the Common.

    • Wun Hung Lo says:

      Yes the Transits are now made in Turkey which has very
      similar electricity prices to the Britain at about £56 (200TL)
      Less regulation and Government interference is the reason.
      The Engines are made in Italy. because Britain cannot afford
      to make aluminum profitably any more, and yet Ford still trying
      to sell the Transit as the “Archetypal British Van”

      Boycott Ford – let Ford feel the wrath of Briton’s Wallets

  8. Ex-expat Colin says:

    The BASF piece is here (and others)

    Yep..cheaper to build solar panels in the US than Germany. Don’t have too much of a problem with solar panels but the FIT must be removed.

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      UKIP doesn’t have a problem in principle with solar panels. But they’ll be three times as efficient in a few years, and we’ll wonder why we invested/wasted billions on an immature and inefficient technology.

  9. Peter G says:

    A strange comment Mr Helmer. Products only become mature because their is a demand that encourages development.
    I recall hearing that Mr Winston Churchill haranged the government in the late 1930’s because they hadn’t bought any fighter planes on the grounds that ‘ we’ll wait until they’ve developed further’.

    • Wun Hung Lo says:

      But aren’t we lucky then that they didn’t equip with a load of old Hawker Demon Bi-Planes or whatever, and the Britain got to have the later, Spitfires and the Hurricanes to win the famous Battle of the Britain in the skies.

      Churchill was not always correct, Later on he stated, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”, referring to the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Force pilots who were at the time fighting the Battle of Britain, the pivotal air battle with the German Luftwaffe. The Britain would not have done so well with Supermarine Southampton Bi-Planes,or the de Havilland Tiger Moth.

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