As part of the Brexit forum held at Vision, we interviewed Chairman Dan Wright to find out why he voted ‘Leave’.
First things first. I didn’t vote ‘Leave’ because I’m a disenfranchised, impoverished, northern Little Englander, fond of humming ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ as I get older. I didn’t vote ‘Leave’ because I was seduced by the cult of ‘Boris’ or the propaganda of Farage. I didn’t vote ‘Leave’ because I am looking to protect an antiquated status quo.
I reject the notion that ‘Leave’ is anti-liberal, anti-progressive or indeed anti-European. The largely metropolitan branding of ‘Leave’ as anti-immigration is a toxic feature of the debate that must be laid to rest – whilst baser elements appealed to the ignorant with an anti-immigration undertow, it would be as unhealthy as unwise to denounce the ‘Leave’ majority as ‘anti-immigration’. Immigration has been established as the bedrock of this country over millennia and we have been enriched and emboldened by each wave.
I didn’t vote ‘Stay’, because the EU is a broken institution that has never secured a legitimate mandate from the majority of its constituents. It is controlled by an increasingly out of touch elite who dangerously ‘think they know best’. As a consequence, it has deeply anti-democratic reflexes and has surreptitiously changed its identity and features (typically by inter-governmental treaty without consultation with the wider electorates) from an economic Community to a political Union.
Its currency is defunct – an economic time-bomb locking in deep inequalities and divisions across the continent, requiring its adherents to strive for ever more objectionable political solutions. Each time I dip into a continental cash machine, I am reminded of the deceits that this paper represents – economic logic dictates that it will fracture, and the livelihoods of its users with it, or it will force ever greater but unspoken subsidiarity at fiscal, monetary and indeed political levels. There are historians who attribute the rise of totalitarianism in the 1930’s more to hyperinflation in Weimar than the iniquities of Versailles – the political polarisation and nationalistic eruptions on the disenfranchised peripheries of today’s continent carry troubling parallels.
I didn’t vote ‘Stay’, because I do not believe our prosperity is tied to Europe and the Euro.
I didn’t vote ‘Stay’, because the EU’s reinforcement of our collective security is a fallacy. The EU is a relic of World War Two and the Cold War that followed, a natural if misguided response from weakness in a bipolar world. As this bipolarity collapsed into first Pax Americana and perhaps latterly multipolarity with a Pacific centre of gravity, the EU’s foreign operations and objectives have become increasingly redundant and anachronistic. In the sweep of modern European history since Westphalia, the balance of power has been supported across the states system by countervailing principles of sovereignty and self-determination which millions have literally died to defend. History rhymes that the Holy Roman tendencies of an expansionist Greater Germany on occasion descend into authoritarianism and have ultimately foundered three times in a century on the high water mark of Britain’s sense of ‘enough is enough’. The Brexit vote and subsequent international Terror challenges have shown that now is not the time to surrender sovereignty at a national or personal level.
And I didn’t vote ‘Stay’, because the EU’s institutions don’t work. Its Parliament, Council and Commission are not only veneers for an anti-democratic Establishment, but hopelessly out-moded for delivering any kind of joined-up political response in a timely and effective manner. The compromise and concession involved in securing super-majority agreement for action is inevitably subject to ransom politics and the law of the ‘lowest common denominator’.
So rests this case against ‘Stay’. But ‘Leave’ also needs a destination and it is especially incumbent on those who voted ‘Out’ to help paint a vision of a post-Brexit future.
Born and bred in a city founded on immigration and the Industrial Revolution, my Mancunian outlook is shaped by Free Trade economics, progressive politics and technological innovation.
I voted ‘Leave’ because I am a liberal – open to the world by instinct and experience, a supporter of enhanced flows in goods, services and people.
Much will depend on the political will of our government, the expertise of our trade negotiators and the willingness and leverage of our partners. But the myriad forces unleashed by Brexit across all our domestic and international relationships, on bilateral and multilateral levels, cannot be fully anticipated. ‘Leave’ always required a leap of faith, but our principles and instincts established over centuries should give us a confidence and a conviction that can guide us to a more promising platform.
Brexit is a seismic event which will define a generation. As the Repeal of the Corn Laws two centuries ago was also a domestic response to internal unrest that jump-started Free Trade across the World; much as the Great Exhibition and Chamberlain’s Commonwealth Preference showcased and prioritised what Great Britain made and what made Britain great: we have an opportunity and a responsibility to emphasise the progressive and positive impact a Brexit can have both at home and overseas.
Open up to the World, not just Europe. We are leaders in finance – our commercial identity and network remains as forged in Melbourne, Auckland, Toronto, New York, Cape Town, Mumbai, and Hong Kong as in Vilnius, Bratislava and Skopje. We have hotspots of technological innovation that export ideas and practices to Silicon Valley and its Scandinavian, Indian and Chinese offspring. Our universities are world class and are networked with the finest teaching and research institutions from MIT to Tsinghua.
Europe has built a Great Wall around itself called the EU – it blocks out enterprise, people and trade in backroom ‘Council & Commision’ deals whilst paying lip service to openness, fairness and transparency. Help bridge the divide being dug between continental Europeans and developing nations by demonstrating the benefits delivered by an open and progressive economic stance in concert with an open and democratic polity.
Stay true to free trade economic principles – a trading nation at heart, we must remain actively committed to the free movement of goods, services and people. Our mercantilist, Atlanticist instincts are best served on the edge of Europe without being anchored to it. We are ‘with Europe, not in it’. I have seen at first hand the devastating impact of EU quotas and tariffs that underpin the want and desperation of working people across benighted parts of Africa and Asia. Whilst hyperbolic, I have heard senior Pakistanis reference the EU and its draconian protectionism as a greater chronic threat to their prosperity and sovereignty than US drones. Never fall back on protectionism – like smoking, it kills.
Devolve greater power and authority to the English regions at home. They have languished without investment and a voice as the Westminster Establishment clung to The Union by pandering to minority partners. Show ‘Northern Powerhouse’ to be a policy rather than a slogan. The imbalance in the current United Kingdom settlement has been laid bare and must be reset. If this entails Scottish independence, it would be hypocritical and wrong to stand in the way of a decision by plebiscite. Keep the border open and provide short-term support if the Scots choose to move to a Scandinavian model.
Promote immigration and provide immigrants with the support structures required to integrate and contribute. In the real world, some rationing of immigration is required, and a points-based system seems perhaps the fairest and optimal mechanism to achieve this, but greater numbers of asylum seekers or economic migrants can be absorbed if we construct structures to assist their assimilation and development. Acknowledge that we need immigration as much as migrants need a new home – we have as much to gain as the people we welcome if we handle their assimilation in a sensitive and supportive fashion.
Defend NATO and deterrence as the hallmarks of our security in an increasingly turbulent world. The myth of our security being underscored by the EU evaporates as terror and geopolitical events are unleashed across Europe, the Near East and beyond. Work with our European partners through the NATO command structure to engage and where necessary confront foreign antagonists and security threats.
We can talk ourselves into economic recession. We can talk ourselves into the geopolitical margins. And we can talk ourselves into political divisiveness.
But beware unstable states systems like the EU and its League of Nations and Triple Entente forebears. Recognise that US Presidents, be they called Bush, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Nixon or Wilson, nearly always make poor policy decisions that sacrifice British interests on the altar of US hegemony – to highlight the irony of their perfidy, we may have a trade deal with the US (who exports a fifth to the UK) before Obama’s TTIP queue has even formed.
Welcome overseas capital as well as firms and people. Demonstrate that the British combination of enterprise, innovation and commercial instinct can deliver superior investment returns. This in combination with our low-risk legal and regulatory platform can attract international capital to supercharge growth and infrastructure investment. Keep the playing field level and recognise ‘protected national champion’ is an oxymoron. Remember lower tax rates mean higher tax revenues. Don’t listen to non-dom financiers crying foul unless they really do vote with their wallets and tax returns and head back to Paris, New York or Frankfurt.
We can talk ourselves into economic recession. We can talk ourselves into the geopolitical margins. And we can talk ourselves into political divisiveness. Or we can embrace the change and opportunity offered by Brexit. We can define a new commercial framework upon which the open world can overlay its trading arrangements. We can attract people, trade and capital to reinforce our evident existing economic attributes. We can be an active proponent of a moral and effective immigration system that works for migrants and for us. We can play a leading and unshackled part in the security response to the supranational challenges of our age – climactic change, Terror, East Asian frictions, Slavic nationalism and extremism fostered in failed states. The Age of Empire is long consigned to history, but Britain should now step forward into the world as a leading and independent protagonist, mindful of its responsibilities and confident of its strengths.
Vision Support Services
To see Dan’s official statement on the Brexit result, click here.