Brexit: Is it a question of Hobson’s choice?
You might think that the last thing you need is another voice adding to the clamour of the Great Brexit Debate. Surely we have heard all the arguments already, from all sides, addressing all the pros and cons, and then some. Perhaps; but I personally feel that we are being sorely misled, if we think the choice that is being offered to the British voting public is truly the one that is being shown to us.
And I feel the time is right for me to speak out on this subject.
As the CEO of a company that operates internationally, and which has clients from the UK, Europe and beyond, I don’t feel that any of us is being well-served by either side of the campaign.
Both the Remain and Leave campaigns are focusing on the perceived advantages of their position, as they want us to see the argument from their side, and ideally overlook any issues or problems that might be caused by a vote in their favour.
Here’s my summary of what is being said to us, and what is actually behind the debate:
* The “In” crowd, led by big names in the government and industry, has produced figures showing how we are financially better off staying inside Europe, and how leaving the EU would damage the wallet of each and every citizen, as we would be forced to struggle to broker new trade agreements to match what we have within Europe.
What they have chosen not to mention is that the old idea of Europe – as a cohesive, mutually beneficial group of countries – was lost long ago in currency issues and gaping differences between the bloc’s various national economies, and became mired in the engine of bureaucracy that is Brussels.
The idea that we can fix Europe in the short term is simply not true, and most voters know this – so why not just admit it, and confirm that it will take quite a long time to reform Europe; and emphasise just what part Britain can play in this process, rather than glossing it over and pretending that everything will be all right?
* The Brexiters pushing the idea of a newly-liberated, autonomous UK, which the rest of the world will be eagerly queuing up to trade with, blissfully unfettered by rules from Brussels, are being, frankly, economical with the truth, if they don’t acknowledge the sheer cost of exit from the largest trading block in the world.
They are not mentioning that Scotland will almost certainly leave the UK if a Brexit is to happen; nor are they mentioning that large questions would hang over Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom, even as the Irish Republic and Scotland were able to trade from within Europe.
Other inconvenient facts for this side of the debate include the fact that the UK housing market would certainly crash, as international investors left the UK, and most international firms would not want to open factories in what was left of the UK.
I believe that the economic downturn within the UK would be permanent, as investors swap an island of 60 million consumers for a marketplace of 500 million.
Maybe the price is worth paying for democratic sovereignty: Nevertheless, why can’t the Brexit politicians acknowledge the obvious economic costs of leaving, so voters can make informed decisions?
So really it seems we are not being given a choice at all: stay and continue to hand over the reins of our government or leave and suffer an uncertain financial future for years to come. So which way do we jump – towards principle or pragmatism? After all it’s really just Hobson’s choice.
Martin Young is founder and group chairman of London-based Meyado Private Wealth Management, which operates in the UK Frankfurt and the Philippines. Meyado was featured in a cover story in the April issue of International Investment, which may also be viewed online by clicking here.