Why Ken is wrong on business and Brexit

Roger Notts TV

On Friday Oct 23rd, I appeared in a TV debate organised by Notts TV  along with Ken Clarke, North Nottingham Labour MP Graham Allen , and a psychologist from Nottingham Trent University.

Of course Europe came up, and Ken trotted out the old line about “All serious business people support EU membership, and know it’s best for the economy – the CBI etc etc”.  He seemed entirely unconcerned that these are the very same people who fifteen years ago were telling us that we should face a disaster if we failed to join the €uro.  Our financial services business would migrate to Frankfurt.  Investment would go elsewhere.  Jobs would be lost.  Plants would close.  The motor industry would emigrate to the eurozone.

The truth was the exact opposite.  It was the eurozone that faced a chronic economic malaise as a direct consequence of the Single Currency, while we in Britain have thanked our lucky stars that we stayed out.  Yet now this same chorus that got it so wrong on the €uro is getting it equally wrong on Brexit.

Ken seemed blissfully unaware (or maybe prefers to ignore) the rapidly growing list of business people who are either speaking out for Brexit — or at least saying that they are comfortable with it and that Brexit will do no harm.  Lord Bamford is Chairman of JCB — one of the UK’s pre-eminent engineering and export businesses.   Peter Cruddas, a self-made financial services entrepreneur and former co-treasurer of the Conservative Party worth a reported £1.5 billion.  John Mills, the head of JML, the television shopping giant, and the largest individual donor to the Labour Party.  Crispin Odey, who is worth £1.1 billion and has donated £200,000 to the Tories and given funding to Ukip; and John Caudwell, the entrepreneur and philanthropist, who is worth £1.4 billion.  And the list is growing by the day.

So why do many large companies still speak out in favour of EU membership?  Are they really committed to it, or could there be another reason?  Indeed there is, and I see it on a daily basis in Brussels.  The scary fact is that the European Commission has an enormous regulatory impact on business, and especially on large businesses.  That’s why business retains thousands (yes thousands) of lobbyists in Brussels to seek to influence the Commission.  And to get the ear of the Commission, it doesn’t help to make statements sympathetic to Brexit.  It’s almost a condition of access to the Commission that one broadly toes the Brussels line — whether on EU membership, or indeed on that other contentious issue, climate change.

Often I speak out in Committee on these issues, and it’s by no means unusual to find a shame-faced business representative sidling up to me afterwards and saying “Thank you so much for bringing a little common sense to the debate – that’s exactly what we believe, but of course you understand why we can’t say so”.  Nudge nudge.  Wink wink.  Indeed I do understand.

So there is real commercial pressure on any company that might ever want the ear of the Commission, to avoid seeming critical of the project.

Earlier in October, the CEO of GE, Jeff Immelt (GE is one of the world’s largest companies, and employs many thousands in the UK) reportedly said he saw no problems with Brexit, and no adverse impact on his business.  Yet a few days later the GE press office came out with a rather po-faced press release saying that they hadn’t meant to imply support for the OUT campaign, and that Jeff Immelt shouldn’t be quoted in that context (so I’m sorry, Jeff, for quoting you again).   I’m guessing that there was a panic in the GE Government Affairs Office, fearful that the European Commission would never speak to them again.

Or quite possibly (and here I’m speculating, but in very realistic terms) the local GE person in Brussels was called in by the Commission and told in no uncertain terms that GE had better change its tune if it ever wanted to talk to the Commission again.  As I say, pure speculation, but in my view, very likely.  It must have taken a big hit to get GE to undertake such an embarrassing climb-down in short order.

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14 Responses to Why Ken is wrong on business and Brexit

  1. Andrew Shakespeare says:

    Does anybody really care what the old brontosaur Ken Clarke really says any more. I trust you put him right.

    I read the other day that the big cheese of Waterstones had declared in favour of Leave.eu. Not a serious businessman, clearly.

  2. Jane Davies says:

    The art of blackmail is alive and well in Brussels!

    I never take anything Ken Clarke says seriously, I remember having to go and watch a film of him when I worked in the NHS…no choice we all had to hear his words of wisdom…..when he was the minister “in charge of the nations health” his “vision” of where the NHS was going etc…..needless to say we got back to the wards and carried on working up the ‘sharp end’ having just wasted around 30 minutes of the morning!

    Does he still wear those awful suede shoes? Never trust a man who wears suede shoes!!
    I hope you don’t wear them Roger except in the privacy of your home!

  3. ian wragg says:

    GE Roger is wholly American and will always do what it can to further its interests. In the Middle East, they very often had senior politicians lobbying for them when bidding for power station and oil company contracts. They are very cosy with the US military.

  4. Ian Terry says:

    Roger
    very good entry.

    All one has to do regarding the KCs of this world is apply the old benchmark.

    Would you buy a car from this man?

    It is sooooooooooo simple I am amazed that the electorate have never seen it

  5. Roger, nobody else – except perhaps Dan Hannan, lifts the curtain on the EU. You do. I am deeply grateful. And you no doubt have to take a lot of stick for your trouble!

  6. Ex-expat Colin says:

    O/T…mobile phone roaming charges in EU..interesting. (D Teleg today)
    “Scrapping roaming fees in Europe would be a massive win for British consumers,” said Catherine Bearder, a Liberal Democrat MEP. “Ukip call themselves the people’s army, but the truth is their plans would put millions of people out of pocket.”

    Keeps millions more in pocket I’d say! .

    Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the business minister, said last month the proposed deal “shows that the UK can deliver real reform in the EU to produce real benefits to consumers in Britain.”
    la, la, la

    Looks like its more about receiving ever more cr8p off the internet…cheaper-ish!

  7. Pingback: Why the Single Market is a Bad Idea | John Poynton

  8. Ex-expat Colin says:

    O/T – ish
    Who will watch the watchmen? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Roman Poet Juvenal)

    Indeed:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/10/26/who-will-watch-the-watchmen-a-reply-to-lord-carnwath-and-philippe-sands-qc-on-climate-change-and-the-law

    Its long and very damning by Christopher Monckton. Our host gets credit.

  9. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Portugal and not mentioned in media much at all?

  10. lasancmt says:

    Dear Roger,
    Like so many Eurosceptics you come out with sentences like “the eurozone faced a chronic economic malaise as a direct consequence of the Single Currency, while we in Britain have thanked our lucky stars that we stayed out”

    You offer zero proof for such a crass statement so the kindest statement is to say that’s just speculation on your part.

    First of all I would venture that the 2008 financial crash hit the UK just as hard as any country in the Eurozone. Having the pound offered absolutely no protection against that.

    Secondly although Britain may have had a better than average Eurozone recovery since then, Germany was actually back at pre 2008 levels four yearsbefore Britain broke even again in 2014. Well Germany uses the Euro and Britain uses Sterling. What was it exactly that we should all be so pleased about that we have to thank our lucky star?

    The problem with ukip supporters/politiciansis that they are blessed with ‘selective perception’ and they think we all carry teh same blinkers.

    So they see eurozone countries like Italy and Greece suffering, and in the same breath after spouting ‘believe in Britain’ they want us to accept Britain in Eurozone would have ended up in the gutter alongside bankrupt Greece. Never could they contemplate Britain’s manufacturing heartlands might have benefitted a lot from a cheap euro like Germany and that alongside the world’s premier financial services UK might have been an industrial powerhouse at the same time like Germany.

    I am big enough to admit what I say is speculation as well, but at least I offer you two independent links below to back up what I say. Can you do the same Roger, or should we just share your blinkered vision as the gospel truth?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/10990250/UK-economy-finally-returns-to-pre-crisis-level.html

    http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/9323e120-387d-11e0-959c-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3mqa4BwbS

  11. Pingback: Open letter to Roger Helmer ukip MEP (does not believe in Britain) | IdentitySpace

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