Business and the EU referendum

I always think it wise to look at what big institutions do, rather than believe everything they say. The parade of executives from large multinationals telling us the UK has to stay in the EU or else, does not ring true.

Since the election of a Conservative government – which came as a surprise to most business people and commentators – the Stock market has gone up. The referendum they fear so far has not done damage. Investment and output is rising again now the election uncertainties are behind us.

The car companies who told us in the 1990s that they would take their new investment elsewhere if we did not join the Euro, are announcing record levels of UK output and have invested heavily here in recent years despite our refusal to join their currency of choice.

I do not understand why some large companies have such a passion to link the UK ever more closely to the economic disaster that is the Euro centred EU. In the 1980s some of these same large companies lobbied and lobbied to get a reluctant Conservative government to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. They told us few who opposed it that we were wrong. As the Chairman of a large industrial quoted group at the time, I remember failing to persuade the CBI officials that they should not back this ill fated scheme. Their support for it – along with the Labour party, the TUC and the rest of the establishment – delivered us a nasty boom and bust which did a lot of damage to jobs, investment and profits. It was entirely predictable, so why did they visit it upon us?

Today you might have thought the CBI would be speaking out against the ruinously expensive energy EU policy gives us. This is doing damage to the UK/EU industrial base and leading companies to place their new industrial investment outside the EU altogether. You might have thought they would get behind the Prime Minister’s renegotiation, and egg him on to get rid of more Brussels laws and rules that hinder business and jobs. Instead they take every available media opportunity to undermine his position by telling us all we must vote to stay in whatever is on offer.

The voters will not believe the big lie that some imply, that 3 million jobs in exports to the rest of the EU are at risk if we leave. Germany and the rest of the EU has made quite clear they will want to carry on trading with us. They don’t want us taking our deficit with them elsewhere.

I am all in favour of business people joining in this crucial debate about our future. Those who own or control their own companies have every right to speak for their companies as well as for themselves. Some executives of multinationals imply they speak for their companies, but they have never polled their shareholders on this matter.

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  1. Margaret Brandreth-J
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    I was wondering whether you may raise issues with Theresa May regards current rules for those in this Country seeking political asylum . My belief is, that at present an asylum seeker cannot either receive benefits or be employed and rely on charitable organisations for money .This is very different from an immigration status where an immigrant is actively encouraged to find work.
    The home office will hold passports of asylum seekers and therefore the seeker is trapped in this country without the opportunity to earn a living and cannot get out of the country due to the holding of their papers.I have heard of people being in this situation for nearly a decade.
    This is not an EU issue, however I would like to know their stance on asylum seekers.

    • Hope
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      The same CBI who warned us all of dire consequences if the UK did not join the Euro! No more needs to be said.

      • Jagman84
        Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        The EU have their placemen/women in all facets of UK society, including the Tory party. It is much easier to destroy a nation from within.

        • Jerry
          Posted May 29, 2015 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          @Jagman84; It’s that sort of, broad-brush, attack-dog type of argument that could well turn people away from an “Out” decision, or at the very least have much the same ‘argument’ turned against eurosceptics.

      • Jerry
        Posted May 29, 2015 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        @Hope; Isn’t 20/20 hindsight wonderful…

        • Edward2
          Posted May 29, 2015 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          Yes it is useful, because you can use the track record to estimate how likely they are to be right on this current topic.
          Totally wrong on their enthusiasm for the ERM and totally wrong on their desire for the UK to join the Euro project.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted May 29, 2015 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

          All the sensible people said before the event that the ERM would be a disaster. It was a totally predictable and predicted disaster rather like the EURO and the EU.

        • Hope
          Posted May 30, 2015 at 8:05 am | Permalink

          No the facts were predictable, obviously not to the blind!

          • Jerry
            Posted May 31, 2015 at 10:38 am | Permalink

            @Bob; As I said, indeed they were, just like those national lottery number were yesterday 🙂 – pity I lost the receipt, back to work on Monday I guess! 🙁

            Easy to say, not so easy to prove…

    • Bob
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      @Margaret Brandreth-J

      “This is not an EU issue”

      There’s an awful lot of Asylum seekers coming across the English Channel from France. If they’re supposed to stop at the first safe country they reach then why are we having to process them if it’s “not an EU issue”?

      • Jerry
        Posted May 29, 2015 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        @Bob; Perhaps those asylum seekers do not consider the EU safe, after all isn’t the UK wanting to leave?!… It’s not an “EU issue”, it has always been a “France issue”, the problem you refer to is older than EU free movement and Schengen.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    It was John Major and the Tories (not Labour and the CBI) who took us into the entirely predictable disaster of the ERM and would have taken us into the EURO had he been able to. Thus burying the Tories for 3 terms. Half of the Tories seem still to have still learned nothing from this huge & predicable error.

    “If it is not hurting it is not working” was what they said as homes were repossessed, businesses destroys and many people even killed themselves.

    “If we come out of the ERM interest rates will have to go up even further” they said – just before they fell from 15% – 5%

    Still no apology from this dreadful Major man (and needless to say BBC favourite) who has been so consistently wrong on almost everything over the years.

    The reason big businesses often go along with the EU is they like the way it kills competition from smaller companies and it often gives them an unfair advantage. Also they have interest across the EU and do not want to alienate anyone in power or lose any grants, licences, government contracts, airport slots etc.

    There is clearly no chance that the UK would be unable to trade with the EU. But even if they were some restrictions/tarifs the UK would just shift this trade activity to more trade with the rest of the World. There would be no loss of jobs, quite the reverse in the long term, as cheaper energy, fewer daft regulations and more freedom would make the UK far more competitive not less. The ability to have sensible but selective immigration would also be a huge advantage.

    Is Cameron really asking for so very little? Is he even going to say what his red lines are eventually? Benefit changes for migrants does not even begin to touch the issue. It is about democracy, how we are governed and freedom. Will Cameron ever finally wake up or is he really going to try to quickly win a referendum with a few pathetic fig leaves?

    • turbo terrier
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 7:44 am | Permalink


      The reason big businesses often go along with the EU is they like the way it kills competition from smaller companies and it often gives them an unfair advantage. Also they have interest across the EU and do not want to alienate anyone in power or lose any grants, licences, government contracts, airport slots etc.

      Very well said. You can add governments to that list as they suck up to the EU as it will always stand them in good stead if and when the ******** hits the fan.

      Parliament will be “discussing” subsidies with Scotland and Wales over RE. What ever happened to the saying about being responsible and accountable for your actions. It is no different to how the big companies work trying to be all things to all people just to keep the trade going and keep the shareholders happy.

      The Scots should be told that all subsidies will be stopped and if they want to see subsidies paid, pay them out of their own budgets. For too long the RE agenda has held this country back. England being the cash cow for matters that are devolved, and it is just so easy to be irresponsible with other peoples money as a few in the EU are finding out to their cost.

    • Hope
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      Excellent post LL. As it has been pointed out, some of what he is allegedly asking could be resolved by legislation in the UK. We simply do not know what he is trying to achieve because he will not tell the country. Therefore it is reasonable, based on his appalling ratting record, that he going to spin a success our of a failure. He could have used the fiscal pact as a lever for treaty changes, but CHOSE not to. He bailed out Eurozone countries when he promised not to, he gave billions more of UK taxes to the EU when he did not have to, he has given away the liberty of any UK citizen under the EAW while allowing EU citizens with criminal records for murder to freely enter our country without supervision! Osborne on manoeuvres to regionalise our country for the EU so it can be dissolved. Do not hold your breath. He is not telling us what he is trying to achieve because it is easier to spin a success story our of nothing,

    • Ken Moore
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Dr Redwood – ‘You might have thought they would get behind the Prime Minister’s renegotiation, and egg him on to get rid of more Brussels laws and rules that hinder business and jobs’

      Why would they ?..The corporate elite love the complicated rules that are harder for smaller enterprises to follow giving them an advantage. They also like mass immigration that gives them an unlimited supply of low cost labour and more customers for their service industries.

      I’m still waiting for the Prime Minister to signal that he is ready to leave the European Union. It’s like going to buy a new car and telling the salesman in advance that no matter what you will be buying the car today. Is this the best the Conservative party can offer ?
      His position is incredibly weak…..

      • Lifelogic
        Posted May 29, 2015 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

        Negotiation is clearly not Cameron’s strong point. He is asking for nothing anyway and has already said that he pretty much wants to stay in regardless.

    • JoeSoap
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      To your last paragraph, I think we agree that Cameron was never going to get to the red meat. He might trim a little fat off and call it a victory. Our host won’t like it, but will celebrate Mr Cameron’s achievements when benefits are reduced by 20% per immigrant capita even though immigration has increased by 40% from a failing Greece and Europe. Rejoice! Not.

      The future then becomes a little less certain. Do we go down after propping up Greece, Spain and Italy? Does some half-brother of UKIP and the Eurosceptic wing of the Tory party merge to call this 2017 referendum a travesty of justice because of it was tilted from the start, and initiate a second referendum circa 2022?

      Reply I will campaign and vote for out if we do not restore UK self government over what matters

      • Lifelogic
        Posted May 29, 2015 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        Cameron is not even trying to restore UK self government over what matters. He is not even close to even asking for it. It is all just superficial tinkering, photo ops and preparation for later spin.

      • JoeSoap
        Posted May 30, 2015 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        Then you need to define what matters precisely and we are home and dry on your positioning.

  3. DaveM
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Speaking as a non-business person, and therefore for a large chunk of the population, my viewpoint is this. Big businesses appear to be faceless multinationals who make lots of money but don’t share any of it. They want to stay in the EU so they don’t have to pay levies on exports and they want to exploit cheap foreign labour. What about the big retailers? All their advertising seems to centre around using local produce these days. What about hauliers? What do they gain? And why would non-EU car makers take their factories away? The Germans and French have enough car firms of their own. And the city? Do they want to be hamstrung so that Frankfurt becomes richer? Maybe Mr Farage could be used to speak for the financial sector. You’re right John, people won’t believe the lies – most people in this country don’t even know what the CBI is.

    • Jerry
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 6:47 am | Permalink

      @DaveM; “and they want to exploit cheap foreign labour.”

      How can they do that without breaking the law with regards the NMW?

      • Edward2
        Posted May 29, 2015 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        They undercut the existing wage rate by employing people on NMW.
        They don’t break the law just reduce employees wages and add to their profits.
        Perhaps one reason why the CBI loves the EU

      • Monty
        Posted May 29, 2015 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        “How can they do that without breaking the law with regards the NMW?”

        Easily. They offer jobs for skilled and experienced tradesmen and craftsmen, people who would justifiably expect a lot more than the NMW, and they make our people compete with contractors coming in from unemployment blackspots across the EU. Migrants who are desperate enough to undercut down to the bone, and maybe live six to a caravan, to make some money to send home.

        • Jerry
          Posted May 30, 2015 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

          @Edward2; (+ @Monty;) “They undercut the existing wage rate by employing people on NMW.”

          Than that is the going rate for the job, I think it’s called something like “Capitalism”!

          So once again UK workers are pricing themselves out of the employment market in those sectors, and if employers had to pay such inflated wages then the UK economy would be back in the state it was in during the mid to late 1970s – the sick-man of Europe (the unemp0loyed blamed migration even back then, when the real cause was greedy pay claims from the unions, backed up with mass strike action)…

      • DaveM
        Posted May 29, 2015 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

        I’ve no idea Jerry. I’m sure you’re right – as I said, I’m not a business person. However, the point I’m making is that the general perception amongst a large chunk of the population is that that is the case, therefore what the CBI says isn’t going to change the way people vote in a referendum.

        What will sway them is the indulgent and patronising attitude of Merkel, and the fact that the PM doesn’t appear to have even mentioned free movement of people or control of borders. Mr R – your pro-EU PM, with his weak approach to the European leaders, is doing more for the NO campaign than Milliband did for your party in the GE!!! Go Dave go!

    • Timaction
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      ……or that the CBI get funding from the EU as do the BBC. All paid for by British Taxpayers via EU contributions!
      I see the question for referendum is loaded in favour of the EU. Everything is so predictable with Mr Cameron! I’m just waiting for his Chamberlain moment. What he is asking is so limited and lame as to be meaningless. I thought there was already stated cases from Germany limiting benefits to workers. It’s all a charade!

  4. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    The idea that big business views the euro-based continent as an “economic disaster” indeed doesn’t ring very true. Business thinks as business thinks and should not be mixed with ideology. The fact that business with most of the continent is possible with just one currency instead of more than twenty is probably viewed as a big advantage by these businesses. It is likely that business has confidence that the eurozone will solve its remaining problems, having progressed nicely over the last few years. Business will not shy away from the statistics and studies which show the benefits of the UK’s EU membership. It probably has read the Economist of 12-4-2014, (“the benefits of Brentry”), demonstrating that the UK wealth would be 20% smaller without its accession to the EU. Why throw it all away for the eurosceptic sirens, singing about a totally unpredictable future full of “self determination”, and flimsy promises about blossoming economy until eternity. Do the sirens ring true???

    Reply We were right about the ERM which badly damaged our wealth and income, and right about the Euro. No-one surely can be happy with what the Euro has done to the Greek, Spanish and Irish economies since 2008?

    • Hope
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      PVL, read other comments from the CBI in the past and you will realise how wrong it is on most important issues. I am not convinced it speaks for every business as some might think it does.

      • a-tracy
        Posted May 29, 2015 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        I wonder if the CBI is just speaking for its 1500 direct members after they’ve polled them? It can’t possibly be speaking for the 100’s of thousands of indirect members through other associations if it hasn’t polled and asked for all their views surely, shouldn’t we know, how many individual businesses and how many sole traders it is speaking on behalf of I’m curious?

        Just done a quick search Wikipedia says it speaks for 140 trade associations including the largest the National Farmers Union and the Country Land and Business association.

    • Peter van Leeuwen
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      No-one is happy with what the financial crisis did to Greece, Spain, Ireland. Or to the UK for that matter, where the pound is still struggling to regain its €1.50 to the euro value. Even now your youth unemployment is 50% higher than in the Netherlands and even double that in Germany. Wouldn’t you rather be compared with these countries than with Greece?
      Maybe Gordon Brown was right not rushing into the euro, exact proof remains difficult. The UK probably would have been the real leader of Europe had the UK made a different choice in 1955 and had joined the design from the start, although also difficult to prove of course.
      Business, the USA, Australia, Canada, all make a different call than you do about UK membership of the EU. Let’s see whose advice the UK people will follow.

      • Edward2
        Posted May 29, 2015 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        Canada seems to do all right on the border of the USA yet very much its own proud country.

      • petermartin2001
        Posted May 29, 2015 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

        the pound is still struggling to regain its €1.50 to the euro value

        So what? A non-convertible fully floating currency should be allowed to do just that. ie Float.

        I’m not sure if your figures on youth unemployment are correct, but the UK is right not to compare itself with Germany and Holland. Germany has a tarde surplus of 7% of GDP. Holland a trade surplus of 10% of GDP. The UK has a trade deficit of 6% of GDP. Germany and Holland need countries like the UK to run deficits! Trade does have to balance you know! Surpluses have to sum to zero!

        Exact proof isn’t at all difficult! The euro would have been a catastrophe for the UK.

        • Edward2
          Posted May 31, 2015 at 8:08 am | Permalink

          Does that perpetual balance apply to the whole planet or just the nations the UK trades with?

      • libertarian
        Posted May 30, 2015 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        Peter vL

        Unlike most of the EU our youth unemployment isn’t down to a lack of jobs its down to a lack of willingness to work and that problem won’t be solved by joining trade blocks, customs unions or political dictatorships.

        Currently total unemployment in the UK is almost on a par with Germany .

        We have a rate of 5.5% unemployment meanwhile in Holland its 7%.

        Wouldn’t you rather join us in trading with the world rather than being a vassal state of Greater Germany?

    • Timaction
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      Why would UK wealth be 20% smaller? Trade and friendship is all we want and need. The EU can’t afford a trade war or sanctions with an annual £77 billion deficit with the UK. £20 billion with Germany alone. I’m fed up with the lies told about our doom and demise. The EU is and always has been the creation of a superstate by incremental treaty change. We want our sovereignty and democracy back so we can remove those who place unwanted laws upon us! Not the dictatorship we currently live under. What do we get for our £14.5 billion other than interference and regulation? That money should be spent here for the benefit of British taxpayers.

    • Stuart B
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Peter, your comments here always strike me as so valuable – if you didn’t exist, you would have to be invented, if only to stop a lot of people who are basically on the same side from constantly bickering with each other. Please do keep up your heroic (and occasionally sensible) euro-corporate comments coming..

      Dr R, I have always thought of organisations like the CBI as the truly unacceptable face of capitalism. Their members are far too chummy with each other, and with government. They should be competing tooth and nail among themselves, instead of which they collectively attempt to stitch up the marketplace with group monopolisation, crony value chains (aka gravy trains) and ‘opinion forming’ exercises. I very much doubt whether the real, primary, sources of new wealth are to be found there.
      A part of any significant Out campaign should be to nullify their influence – they are every bit as repellant and inimical as those current (and unjustifiably so) ‘favourite ogres’, the bankers. They are at the heart of that part of the market which abhors uncertainty – as we keep being reminded by the BBC. Whereas in reality, uncertainty is the enemy of the old and arthritic (I should know!), but is the friend and ally of the young and enterprising. They are the ones we want on our side.

    • Ken Moore
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      I kind of agree – Big business doesn’t , in general have a heart – this is what governments are there for to stop the excess of the corporates but they have been lacking.

      As a visitor to Greece and Spain, in recent years they have grown much more prosperous – despite the Euro crisis. The fact that this ‘prosperity’ is built on fiddled money is of no concern to the corporate balance sheet.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted May 29, 2015 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        You think government has a heart?

    • libertarian
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Peter vL

      You’re right the bureaucrat managers who run large multinationals do like dealing in one currency, sadly for you its the US Dollar.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      “a totally unpredictable future full of “self determination”, and flimsy promises about blossoming economy until eternity”
      There is a good way out. We apply Article 50, then go for EEA and EFTA membership. After that we are set up for more negotiation allowing our very large and inventive economy to reach out into the rest of the world which is not allowed to make national arrangements with our country at the moment.
      Britain, like Holland, has always been a world carrier, and we both need to be freed up to be what we are without Brussels telling us not to.

    • forthurst
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Incidentally, Digby Jones a previous Director General of the CBI has written:

      “We certainly must put the option of leaving on the negotiating table. The tactic of promising to stay in the EU regardless of what the Prime Minister can negotiate is insane. When did anyone start negotiations with “It’s OK, we don’t mean it, we will do what you want anyway” as an opening gambit?

      Staying in a reformed Europe has to be the right course, but should we stay in the current mess? Frankly, our nation just can’t afford to if we are to provide our grandchildren with a globally competitive economy worthy of the name.”

      Of course, Digby Jones may not be aware that reforming the EU is about as likely as reforming the erstwhile Bolshevik Empire, both being evil and corrupt beyond redemption.

    • Jerry
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      @JR reply; But that those bubbles were not caused by the Euro per se, although the Euro has caused much pain since.

    • JoeSoap
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      Go on tell the Swiss that! Say that in Norway! Are they stupid, or are they the wealthiest economies in Europe for good reason?
      Then go and tell the Greeks how wonderful their life is in the Euro, and Spain.
      Expect to receive some old-fashioned looks.

    • David Price
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      If we left the EU we would still trade with EU customers who use the Euro and would have to exchange Stirling and Euro as we do now, nothing changes if we leave.

  5. The PrangWizard
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    The broadcast media, particularly the BBC, must be challenged to ensure they give a true balanced view. I saw an interview the other day by the BBC with someone from the Innocent drinks company who was expressing his view. He was more than enthusiastic, he had the eyes and demeanour of an unquestioning zealot. He praised the EU repeatedly and was barely challenged. I got the impression the interviewer did not have much knowledge of an alternative view and no understanding of how to ask a critical question. All I heard her say was something along the lines that others may have a different view; not very convincing or professional, which simply gave him the opportunity to set off again.

  6. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    BBC R4 this morning roll out some german Commerce bloke. Never heard of him but its the usual negative stuff about us. BBC as usual.

    Andrew Selous MP has written a letter to the BBC about their awkward climate change bias…did you know?

    If you happen to buy car parts (brakes/calipers/discs and so on), you will find they are of german name very often. Meaning they are made anywhere in Europe/China by german companies or subs. Bosch for instance thats got its name in most everything from washing machines/driers/dishwashers to cars+. Don’t think they would like us dropping their name off the shopping list. Tariffs may ensure we do?

  7. bratwurst
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Surely it should be ” demonstrating that the UK wealth would be 20% smaller without its participation in the single market”? Membership of the EU is a separate (political) issue.

  8. agricola
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Large corporations like the EU , because with their counterparts in the EU they can control the market place. Having got control to the detriment of small and medium businesses they do not wish to cede control, by having sovereignty and democracy get in the way.

    Outside the EU they will have to act like any other market sensitive supplier. If the customer decides that he wants whatever in red, they have to supply in red. This gives the usually much more flexible and quicker to react small and medium businesses an opportunity to break in and supply. Large corporations are really taking the lazy option.

    My fear is that even after yesterdays positive note your Mr Cameron will defer to this corporate pressure, if he has not already done so. Having available the EFTA/EEA option which is win win all round, including speed of delivery with least disruption, I am at a loss to know why it is not being openly discussed.

    • Stuart B
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

      Hear, hear! BREFTA, BREEA and also G2S2 – Guaranteed Sovereignty, Goldilocks State.

  9. Antisthenes
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    The CBI represents big business and are in favour of staying in the EU smaller businesses are represented by a different organisation and are not so enamoured with the EU. The obvious reason is because EU regulation increases business costs which CBI members are large enough to absorb and smaller business are not. So yes the CBI wants to stay in as it reduces competition. Excellent for big business but disastrous for the consumer. The EU is not about jobs as you rightly say as trade will continue and if regulation is cut and and energy costs reduced leaving the EU will see an increase in jobs as the UK becomes more competitive.

  10. Alan Wheatley
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    “I do not understand why some large companies have such a passion to link the UK ever more closely to the economic disaster that is the Euro centred EU.”

    Could it be they fear being shown up as having made the wrong call: a UK that accelerates to a better future after leaving the EU, rather as happened after leaving the ERM, would leave these people in the impossible position of trying to maintain their credibility.

    Posted May 29, 2015 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    The media prior to our voting on joining what was then termed the Common Market promoted the idea day after day that France, Germany and member states had many weeks holiday more than the UK, as many as 12 weeks in some countries and all kinds of other in-work benefits such as universal free child care.
    YES politicians as in the case of the Scottish Referendum were able to proclaim falsely that they would be free to use the Pound and would be automatically accepted as a member state of the EU.

    In a democracy there has to be maximum leeway in regard to free-speech and voicing ones opinion whether or not it be proven later, unbeknown to the speaker, utterly false.
    However, a referendum on such a major issue as membership of the EU should, I think, be a debate actually well outside the normal political framework.

    There needs to be in effect a referee in the “game” in the run-up to the final NO/YES vote, with appropriate and immediate punishments for those parties, politicians,high-ranking business people and indeed the media who unequivocally for example state the following:
    A NO vote will mean: we cannot trade with Europe, we will lose markets, it will cost two million jobs, increase taxes, cut benefits, render the UK an insignificant nation/ people in terms of economy and trade, make us military insecure, lead to Scotland declaring Independence etc etc

    Even a CEO of a company for example exclusively trading with Europe cannot believe in all honesty that a joint enterprise between say the UK, Germany and France employing workers in all three countries, exporting billions goods will somehow sack a third of its workforce, disable its manufacturing output in a third of its “territory”, and cease selling its goods in a third of its market ( the UK ) because a referendum says NO.

    Given the seriousness of the referendum, such dishonest pronouncements obviously voiced to create harm rather than advance The Argument in fact and in spirit should be punishable by law. Then again, what valid company would employ such a CEO? What valid company would be so silly in its strategy?

  12. oldtimer
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Some reasons for business attitudes: group think, less admin hassle, fear of the unknown, fear of disruption. What business is not bothered about – joss ofUK sovereignty.

  13. backofanenvelope
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Congratulations Peter van Leeuwen! When you say “business should not be mixed with ideology” you put your finger on the problem with the EU.

  14. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    JR: “I always think it wise to look at what big institutions do, rather than believe everything they say.”
    The same goes for political parties and governments. It’s not only representatives of big corporations who “undermine his position by telling us all we must vote to stay in whatever is on offer” for hasn’t Cameron done the same thing himself?
    I was interested to see that your erstwhile colleague Michael Portillo (This Week last night) shares my opinion that confirmation of our membership of EU will be quickly followed by introduction of the euro into UK. Perhaps you think he is talking nonsense too?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      JR: “I always think it wise to look at what big institutions do, rather than believe everything they say.”

      This perhaps applies more to David Cameron (even than big business).

  15. Stephan Schmid
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    So, why do large corporations caution against Brexit, if – as the article suggests – their rhetoric is in such contrast to supposed economic facts? An attempt to objectively addess this might be more constructive than dressing up political position in borrowed economist clothes.

    • libertarian
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:09 am | Permalink


      Thats entirely JR’s point it ISN’T large corporations who are for or against, they never ask the business owners. Its the opinion of one or two employee managers. As any business person will tell you there is no reason to believe that these big business managers have or even know the best strategy to run their own businesses let alone other peoples. Its probably why 80% of FTSE companies from 50 years ago no longer even exist

  16. Observer
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Having viewed those individuals promoting EU membership from the time of Ted Heath, the common link would appear to be membership of the Freemasons. Perhaps someone will write a book about it.

  17. yosarion
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    John, The exchange rate mechanism killed the early 1990s, I speak as someone who lost their job (Best job I ever had) and watched my mortgage rate go through the roof, 14% at one stage.
    I still see the Boss, no longer has his small manufacturing company, but he always maintains that it was like someone had tuned off the tap.
    If anyone in the No campaign wants to get through to the kids as to why the EU is so dangerous, this should be a lesson Not to be repeated.
    Then of course this was at the same time that the Germans had taken on the old East and promised DM one 4 one, and we all know what the ERM was linked to.

  18. Kenneth
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    For a clue to the CBI’s attitude, look at the FTSE which is over-represented by companies that rely heavily on their relationship with the state:

    For example:

    – Pharmaceuticals, financial companies and utilities suppliers, relying as they do on a tight regulatory framework that excludes smaller competitors

    – Builders and others who supply directly to state projects and infrastructure

    These companies benefit from a big highly regulatory state that the eu provides. They have nestled themselves nicely into regulations that they have often helped to draft.

    They do not represent the enterprise, efficiency and vibrancy that would be unleashed if we allowed our country to prosper by unshackling it from the menace of eu bureaucracy (and some UK red tape as well).

    Put it this way: if a minnow company discovers a wonder drug that cures some deadly disease, think of the hurdles that would be placed in its way before it would be in a position to save lives; if somebody wanted to set up a bank, just see how soon they would be stuck in red tape.

    Even setting up the supply of homemade cakes to a local retailer is virtually impossible.

    I don’t blame business for working the system and I don’t blame the CBI for representing them. In fact, most FTSE companies will, I am sure, have no trouble adapting to a more competitive, vibrant market place once the market is unshackled.

    However, right now we must be aware that the CBI speaks up for the status quo which will lead to us to stale, increasingly inefficient, low productive restrictive markets.

  19. Bert Young
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Two things about the large business response from the CBI :

    a) Many of its members are international organisations with much of the influence coming from abroad ; some of them in the UK are subsidiaries and are subject to outside influence .The Nissan/Renault link is typical – originally Japanese ( when it was one of my clients ) its ethos changed when Renault obtained a major share . Had Renault been involved at the time of the development of the new operations in the North East , I doubt that it would have gone ahead . As it is , the products from there are very good , are priced competitively , enjoy a sensible interchange with many Renault products ( gear boxes etc ) , sell well in overseas markets . Renault have threatened to transfer the operations to France – where their productivity leaves a lot to be desired ! . Auto companies arrange the creation of their products on an economically efficient base model in order to obtain the best profitable market share ; this approach will not change no matter what the political situation is in Europe . Germany will continue to exploit its markets this way and the consumer ultimately benefits . Unilever is another example of an organisation that has been run successfully before and after the EU and will continue to do so . I can go on and on with many such examples .

    b) On a highly contentious point – the CBI ( and the BBC ! ) receive a direct contribution from EU funds . Why is this allowed ? I can only believe it is because the bureaucrats in Brussels want to create as much influence as possible and bias opinion in favour of a closer related Europe .This influence ought to be stopped in much the same way as the media is presently regulated . In the run up to the referendum I want these links to be banned .

    Above all is our trade imbalance with the EU . Europe has much more to lose if they impose sanctions – Germany in particular ; it would be economically foolhardy for them to agree ; France likewise . I have always supported a “nil barrier” trade deal with N. America ; it was first mooted in the 60’s and has only recently been proposed again – this time with the inclusion of China . It has many merits and may well be one of the solutions to a safer integrated world .

  20. Ian wragg
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Big business likes to trade in the UK and pay corporation tax in Luxembourg. As someone previously commented business is like prostitution, they go where the money is and we are a major market.
    CMD seems to think restricting a few in work benefits will be enough to get him a yes vote. Does he think we are so stupid.
    It is interesting that Ford think we should stay in the EU and relocate to Turkey and HSBC are thinking of going to Hong Kong. Both good EU countries

    • JoeSoap
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, and small business stays in the UK and pays Corporation tax here. Of course they want trans-EU sales outlets for their third-world products, then pay tax in Luxembourg, or not. That’s what helps them keep a foot on the throat of the small innovators.

  21. bigneil
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    “I always think it wise to look at what big institutions do, rather than believe everything they say.” – – – can we include Mr Cameron and his MPs as a “big institution” in this case? . . . He has had 5 years of “doing” something completely different from what was said. At the moment we all know he is blustering about NOT taking the influx from the Med situation. . . . and we all know that the vast majority of them are going to turn up here demanding their free everything lives. We all know it is unsustainable – etc ed

  22. English Pensioner
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    The EU is very susceptible to lobbying by the big companies and they manage to get rules and regulations introduced which help them at the expense of the smaller companies. In some cases companies have managed to achieve a virtual monopoly because smaller firms cannot manage to meet all the compliance costs. They probably wouldn’t be able to manage this if we were outside the EU and would have additional competition from non-EU countries.
    As with the Euro, businesses are unlikely to leave the UK if we leave the EU, but they just use the possibility as a threat in the hope that it will convince the voters that their jobs are at risk and that staying in the EU is the best option.

  23. Mitchel
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Big Business, I’m sure, finds democracy,the nation state and the will of the people all terribly inconvenient.For them the transnational EU is just a building block on the way to one world,technocratic government -wouldn’t that make lobbying even easier for multinational corporations and the larger banks?That is the direction of travel.

    I see it reported today that the TTIP negotiations continue to advance – behind closed doors of course.

    • Bob
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 12:49 pm | Permalink


      “the transnational EU is just a building block on the way to one world,technocratic government -wouldn’t that make lobbying even easier for multinational corporations and the larger banks?”

      Hole in one.

  24. simonro
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Cross currency trade carries risks that need to be hedged. Hedging risk carries a cost. If all you care about is next quarter’s results then removing costs is foremost in your strategy.

    • Ian wragg
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      Life is a risk. Letting foreigners rule us increases the risk. Most other countries manage to trade internationally without having to join a political union.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      You do not have to hedge. You can just take the risk. Swings and roundabouts you might win you might loose, but in the long run it will nearly always be better than expensive hedging.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted May 29, 2015 at 7:53 pm | Permalink


  25. Shieldsman
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Do any Companies ask their shareholders opinion on EU membership – not in my experience.
    A bit more loyalty to the Home Nation would not go amiss.
    Multinationals have no reason to show loyalty.

  26. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    We have drifted into the EU and therefore fallen in with the Great Deception.
    It is high time we grew a pair and sort of drifted out.

    Posted May 29, 2015 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I have just viewed Mr Cameron and Frau Merkel’s live interview in Berlin with the Press after the PM held high level talks with the powers-that-be in Poland, France and Holland.

    It appears he has managed to get a new deal with the EU and got a firm undertaking that the Tory Party Cabinet will be offered a half price cheese or veggie burger if bought at the McDonalds in Bucharest between 2.30pm and 4pm on a Wednesday of their choice.
    The better news is that a free plastic toy has not been entirely ruled out.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      That was about it I think.

  28. JoeSoap
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    As a business owner, I see opportunities from import substitution, the UK government supporting industry in the ways which benefit the UK not the Germanic EU, and by enhancing our own internal UK business we will also have a platform to export to Europe and worldwide.
    The past 30 years has seen German companies particularly buying up UK companies, and expanding domestically. Off the back of re-unification, Berlin-centric companies were cross subsidised and grew effectively off the back of UK companies closing. In metals, one looks back to the days when we rolled our own, extruded our own… now we have the German mega-conglomerates along with their French cousins and the UK is out of the game altogether. The Swiss kept their internal market strong, specialised and exported off the back of it.

  29. JoeSoap
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Big business often of course speaks with forked tongue as they need low cost in, monopoly out. Big business tends to monopoly, small business tends to innovate and compete.

  30. mick
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I thought that Mr Cameron was educated at Eton, if so what part of “NO” doesn`t he understand, all the other EU countrys he as had meetings with are saying no to things and it seems to go in one ear & out the other, just call a snap referendum so we can get out of the EU club and start our new lives as a proud country and govened by ourselves

  31. alte fritz
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Quite right. Memories of the 75 Referendum remain also when business lobbied for Europe. The big difference is that forty years experience, as you cite, points towards the Eurosceptic view being right. The point needs to be hammered home.

    Also, you seemed on the Daily Politics to exercise a calming and rational influence on your fellow interviewees. The debate seemed calmer.

  32. lojolondon
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Good article, John – Please note that the CBI is NOT impartial in the matter above, as they are heavily funded by the EU. In fact, between 2009 and 2014 the European Commission gave the CBI over £797,000 (an average of £159,000 each year). What disturbs me is that the MSM and particularly the BBC, never mention this fact whenever presenting CBI’s one-sided opinion on UK membership of the EU, surely that should be the minimum for honest journalism?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      Well the BBC are in the same position are they not.

  33. A different Simon
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m inclined to listen to people who have material skin in the game – e.g. founders/proprietors/directors of SME’s .

    Directors of publicly listed multinationals rarely even buy a share , let alone on the market .

    Same with the director general of the CBI John Cridland . He went their straight from Cambridge and has never worked a day in industry his whole life .

    It’s all a conspiracy against the common man ; remuneration consultants , reports rubber stamped by big city consultancies , auditors signing off frauds , money laundering , bailouts , legal systems which inevitably favour companies with deep pockets , lobbying and raising barriers to entry , preventing competition .

    Big business is terminally corrupt and a conspiracy against the common man .

    Hardly surprising it should feel such affinity with the EU .

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 7:55 pm | Permalink


  34. DaveM
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    OT – another £1 Billion off the Defence budget? Really? With the Foreign Aid budget protected?

    Thanks a lot.

    Maybe Cameron could send aid to IS rather than sending troops.

  35. acorn
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Since the Queen’s speech, the odds have shortened on staying in the EU, from 1/3 to 1/4; the exit odds are 11/4. (circa 80% stay in against 20% for out).

    The most important thing for Brits is migration of foreigners onto our welfare system. Build a wall around the UK, Zionist style, and most Brits would care less about this EU thing; they have never understood anyway.

    Personally, I don’t see this glorious future outside of the EU for the UK economy. Yes, those with capital yielding significant unearned income will be OK. Earned income, particularly for the bottom two quintiles of UK households, will be hard to come-by. They (benefit scroungers), will be of only moderate concern for a laissez-faire neo-liberal government.

    The elephant in the EU room is the common currency. Open Europe has it scoring circa 26th out of 30 in its UK referenda concerns. Not surprising, politicians don’t understand how fiat currency economies work, never mind 500 million EU subjects. With that in mind, don’t put any bets on the UK budget being in surplus by the next election.

    The annual budget deficits will depend on the spending and saving preferences of private sector households and firms, NOT the ideological whims of Mr Osborne. You would like to think he learned that fact in the last five years, having missed his balanced budget plan by some 5.6% of GDP. He is destined to repeat the same mistakes he made last time.

    The bottom line will be that if you want them BMW’s and them 60 inch plasmas, Mr Osborne wants you to max out your credit cards, because he is not going to pay for them from his bottomless free money pit.

  36. Alexis
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    The CBI receives money from the EU.

    It’s that simple, in my view. And they would really rather you forgot their staggering misjudgment over the euro. So let’s keep reminding them!

    (I do think everyone who argues publicly in favour of the EU should be forced to declare financial interests (or any other interest))

  37. petermartin2001
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    It is perhaps quite natural that big business would like the EU to remain as it is. Those on the traditional left would say that’s because they want to have a large pool of unemployed workers to keep wages down and maintain worker discipline!

    Are they correct in saying that? As things are at the moment its hard to say they aren’t. Its hard for big business to argue that they only want the EU for its expanded market.

    The truth of the matter that the modern supposedly progressive left has been seduced by the powers-that-be in the EU into thinking the EU to be a socially progressive organisation too. Recent events in Greece, for example, are shaking that view. We need to shake it some more. A first step would be to get them to actually discuss the problem. We might well think the election of Syriza in Greece, with its band of ex-Maoists, ex- Trotskyites, ex-Communists would be a topic of interest for them.

    Not so. They are shell-shocked into silence at the moment. The main Labour websites have nothing at all to say on that.

  38. bluedog
    Posted May 30, 2015 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    It all gets down to the state of the relationship between Angela Merkel and David Cameron, Dr JR. All the rest is just noise including the CBI and the French.

    An enabling factor in the CBI’s influence may be the House of Lords. As more and more senior and retired business executives find their way into the HoL, and there is no suggestion that they buy their way in, it seems that membership of the HoL wrongly adds to the authority of statements by these worthies.

    At some point the British government is going to have reign in and cap the membership of this risible institution. With nearly 800 members, the unelected HoL now vastly outnumbers the Commons. That can’t be right, particularly if their Lordships obstruct Brexit. Indeed, the future of the HoL may now be on the line, just as our membership of the EU is on the line. The difference is that the EU knows it, but the HoL doesn’t.

  39. ferdinand
    Posted May 30, 2015 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    The executives of CBI member Companies are rarely major shareholders in their businesses but there is considerable inertia at senior level;s. They don’t want to have to look at competition too hard or have to re-plan their forward thinking.They wish to remain in the comfort zone – a sort of trade union of companies who wish to join the EU

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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