this is the text of the video I made about this
My name is Phil Smy. I am a Canadian who lives in Japan. But because my parents are British I have a UK passport.
Because of my UK passport I have lived in Holland, Belgium, Spain, Germany and Switzerland. I spent a lot of time in the UK as a child, my mother is a die hard royalist, and my father was a West Ham supporter.
I can’t vote in Thursday’s referendum, but, I wanted to voice some opinions about it – and what better place than the Internet to do that?
I want to talk about 3 things:
First, there is this very slickly made pro-leave video – Brexit – The Movie – that is horribly inaccurate and designed to provoke fear and anger. I want to address some of those points.
Second, as a successful businessman myself, I want to tell you what I think the business impact will be.
Thirdly, I want to share my personal feelings.
But first, I want to start with a parable. Once upon a time there was a kingdom in the land that thought it wasn’t getting a fair shake. Granted, at the council of kings people agreed that the language that was only spoken in that kingdom should be an official language of the council. They also agreed that the kingdom could raise and keep it’s own taxes. And make trade agreements with other kingdoms. Basically, do whatever they wanted, but, also be part of the council of kings.
The kingdom hated this. The king was ok with it, but many princes tried to whip the people into a frenzy. Some formed violent factions. Some protested peacefully. Many wanted out.
Now, you’re all saying that was a pretty crap parable, obviously about the Brexit. But it wasn’t. It was about another such situation that I saw up close – the Quebec sovereignty movement. Almost since joining Canada, parts of Quebec wanted to leave. They thought they had good reason. They had the second biggest economy inside Canada, and were full of natural resources. And they fought hard for many years, but decided, in the end, to stay in Canada… because it made good financial and political sense. And, truth be told, by the time they really got the chance to decide on it, it was way too late. The horse had escaped, so why burn down the barn?
And this is my feeling about Brexit. Maybe if Britain had never joined Europe, or had decided to leave at an earlier date there would be more legitimate arguments. But right now there is literally only one valid argument – Britain wants to be 100% responsible for its own success or failure. i.e sovereignty. And, as far as I can tell from history, sovereignty alone never bought anybody a hot meal. Also, in the case of the Brexit, the word is being misused. Britain ALREADY has sovereignty. All European states do.
So let’s get on to Brexit the Movie. I’m not going to go through minute by minute. Firstly, I don’t have the rights to show it, but mostly because it’s a long video! So let’s hit the highlights.
Right off the bat, they take aim at the supposed ‘big bureaucracy’ of Europe. Including my favourite scene where, because the presenter can’t get into a taxi and get taken to ‘the place where Europe is governed from’ there is something inherently wrong. Have you tried to do the same in the UK? The whole government machine doesn’t sit inside the Houses of Parliament.
But let’s look at this ‘big bureaucracy’ issue.
The EU has a population of around 508 million people. And the Brexit video is right – the number of employees, as quoted by the European Commission themselves, is around 10,000. That’s a lot of people, for sure.
In contrast, the UK has a population of around 64 million people. And, again, from the papers directly issued by the government, the UK parliament staff – not including all the consultants attached to all the ministries – is a little over 2000. But, that means that for every 100,000 people in the UK, there are 3.18 – painful to be the .18! – people in parliamentary employment. In contrast, in the EU commission, for every 100,000 people there are 1.96 – oh, let’s just say 2! That’s only 2/3rds, by population.
There are some incredible sections of this video where they say what a waste of money it is that the EU gives so much to charities, universities and the arts. There are 2 things about this that really rile me. First is this whole ‘the EU is run by bloody French elitists’ thing. That the UK is good working class people and we don’t need any of your poxy arteests thank you very much. The second is the blindness to the fact that a big chunk of the money the EU gives to the arts goes to the UK! Your libraries, your galleries, your artists, your scholars – THEY are getting money from the EU. Do you think the UK government will step into the gap that a Brexit will create for those people? Because this is the thing that the video tries to avoid – that people and organizations in the UK are the recipients of lots of EU money. And there is nothing wrong with that. That is your RIGHT as a member of the EU. And it’s not just the arts. 50% of British farming subsidies come from the EU. More than €1.2 billion comes into the UK to support low income housing projects in places like Scotland and northern England.
And this is why the British government has to say that if a Brexit happens there will have to be austerity measures in the budget to cover the loss. And we know how well that worked in Greece, where old men are setting themselves on fire in protest to how they can’t afford to eat.
Brexit The Movie also takes a long poke at EU regulations. Yes, there’s lots of EU regulations. Yes, they seem to cover silly things. But, newsflash, these regulations make products safer, cleaner, more fuel efficient and standardised. Already the rest of Europe can plug things into the electric when they travel…unless they go to the UK. So don’t try to claim that all EU regulations are followed. Also, true, you can no longer sleep on a pillow made of discarded razor blades. But I think that’s a good thing. Personally, I’m happy to know that some standards are being applied to the things I buy in the EU. Which, of course, is another point. These standards are for things SOLD in the EU. Because of this, when dogs and cats in North America and Asia were dying from Chinese-made pet food that contained harmful levels of toxins, it didn’t happen in the EU. 40% of the UKs trade is with the EU, so, all those things are STILL going to have to comply to EU standards. And if the UK doesn’t adopt similar standards for imports, well, its goodbye Fido.
There is also the ridiculous implication that England could become like Switzerland, despite the fact that the expert quoted in the video – economist Dr. Ruth Lea – says that ‘to think Britain would be like Switzerland is totally bizarre’. Switzerland has 8 million people – less than London – and its major industries are mechanical and precision engineering, pharmaceuticals, banking and watchmaking. How that maps to the British skill set I’m not sure. And politically Switzerland’s structure is completely different. Britain would need to re-write it’s constitution and many of its laws for it to even start to be like Switzerland. So much for going back to the old days.
The video is so contradictory, it’s maddening. At one point they claim how limiting, with regards to trade agreements, being the EU is. The EU only has agreements with 2 of the top 10 regions that the UK trades with. But, hold on. So you’re trading with regions without a EU trade agreement? So, it’s NOT so limiting after all I guess.
But enough about that video.
Of the top 10 economies in the world, 4 are in the EU. France, Germany, Italy and the UK. What a Brexit is saying that France, Germany and Italy – Italy! – can make it work in the EU, but Britain can’t. Britain would be better off alone. A great footballer does not decide to quit his team and play by himself. David Beckham – and he was #1, not #5 – didn’t say, look guys, I’m scoring all the goals here, so I’m going it alone.
The UK joined the EEC in the 1970s. Before that, things were, lets be honest, pretty grim in the UK. I remember going to my grandmothers house in 1970s Southend On Sea and honestly, I don’t think they had a refrigerator. My parents left the UK in the 1950s because opportunities were so much greater elsewhere. So, when people talk about ‘taking back Britain’ remember that it was the British government alone that kept things like rationing going, that attacked the coal industry, that balked on things like child labor. I don’t know what people are thinking, but, before joining the EU it was not the common man that had all the money and the power – it was the elite, the captains of industry, and little was in place to protect the worker. What the Brexit campaign seems to tell you that times are horrible and it’s time to pull up the drawbridge. This is, in fact, not the case. Today the UK has the lowest unemployment rate it has had in a very long time. Under 5%. That includes all the immigrant workers that the UK wants to turn it’s back on. The pro-leave campaign thinks that it’s young people will be better served by NOT having the opportunity to live and work in Europe. That the aging population in the UK will be better served by NOT having inexpensive, yet experienced, home care staff coming in from the continent.
A Brexit will not save British industry. Because most of British industry is already in the hands of foreign companies. Tata will not change its mind about British steel because of a Brexit. If I was a business owner based on the continent that also had facilities in the UK, I would probably close those facilities and move things inside the EU. It only makes common sense to do that. The British fishing industry already has the biggest quotas on any fishing industry in the EU. And, remember all that EU money?, well that is what will fund the deepening of ports in Scotland to allow larger, newer, trollers to come in. Do you think the UK will fund these projects that will not only help local fisherman but also create construction and infrastructure jobs? It is also the EU that would pay for any retraining, or moving to new technology or even new industries, for these fisherman and their families.
The Brexit campaign talks about how, when God closes a door he opens a window. And that window is China. A Chinese, non standard, lead glass, window. Right now China accounts for less than 5% of the UKs exports – and the UK is in a massive deficit with China, importing far more than it exports. You know who is the UK’s biggest exporter to China? Jaguar Land Rover. And who owns Jaguar Land Rover? Tata Motors. The UK’s top 5 exports to China in 2014 were: road vehicles, medicinal and pharmaceutical products, power generating machinery / equipment, metalliferous ores and scrap metal, general industrial machinery, equipment and parts. And in those areas, those imports only account for 1% of China’s imports in those industries. i.e. bucket. drop. By the way, the Chinese just pumped in a few billion to build new nuclear reactors. I live about 80km from Fukushima. My top tip: don’t build nuclear.
Tata stock is already going down due to Brexit fears. What happens when stock prices go down? Companies cut costs. What’s a big cost? Employees.
So, enough of all that. Enough of the business and statistics and all that crap. Here’s my personal feeling. We live in a world where we are all getting more and more closely connected. It’s a scary thing. You feel like you lose control, when your neighbour can find you on Facebook and know that you were out at a party and didn’t invite them. But that’s the world we live in now. As a UK citizen you have an incredible opportunity to take part in that world. You have access to all those countries, all those people. All that food! The UK is not the only place in the world that values sovereignty. The UK is not the only place in the world that values it’s history and culture. By being part of a group you don’t LOSE anything. But, to be part of a group you need to participate.
If you don’t know who your MEP is, that is not all their fault. You could make the effort. Your MEP should also get involved. It is insanity to think that the UK does not have a voice in EU policy. Nick Farage – someone who’s making it his mission to get the UK out of the EU, despite the fact that he is an MEP – was on the EU fisheries council. He had a voice and could have made changes to help the UK fisherman. But he never went. Out of 42 meetings he attended 1. You can’t say a group doesn’t work if you don’t show up. Other countries in Europe – funnily enough, the ones that have the best performing economies – are the most active inside the EU commission. The EU commission is run in English! Despite that incredible fact, UK MEPs are rarely in attendance.
As citizens you do have a right to be outraged at how the UK is involved with the EU. But the solution is not to leave, it is to participate and make the whole Union stronger.
You probably didn’t watch this whole video. You probably don’t think that I have any right to weigh in on this issue. But I can tell you, as a British Citizen, a businessman, and a lover of the great collection of unique cultures that Europe is, I would be sad to see the UK bow out because it was just too hard to make it work.
One response to “My Thoughts on the Brexit”
I wish I’d seen this earlier