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.