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Public Affairs BLOG

Brexit: The Debate

The EU Referendum has split the nation, with the UK public taking to social media to express their exuberance or devastation at the result. Here we weigh in on the debate with Tim Snowball and Emily Burditt reflect on the #leave and #remain campaigns and offer their opinions on what lies ahead for Britain.

An unnecessary act of national self-harm, that leaves us poorer and divided.

By Tim Snowball, Head of Political Strategy (who voted Remain)

The referendum vote to leave the EU on 23 June, has caused the biggest economic and political upheaval of my lifetime.

The expected economic damage began immediately, with $2trillion wiped off world stock markets within 24 hours, the biggest drop in the value of the pound in recent history, and the loss of Britain’s prided AAA credit rating.

Large businesses are already reportedly shelving anticipated investment and projects in the UK, along with the jobs that would have come with them. Others businesses, particularly those reliant on EU funding, are feeling particularly vulnerable.

Regrettably this is likely to continue while Britain’s status and trade relations remain uncertain in the months and years ahead. We won’t be able to assess the impact fully until business data for the first post-referendum quarter is published later this month.

The Chancellor is clearly worried. He has already dropped the Conservatives’s core fiscal target of a budget surplus by 2020, in order to enable a government funded economic stimulus. He has also felt the need to slash corporation tax to 15% to prevent a corporate dash for the door.

Politically, Brexit has already brought down a Prime Minister, and it leaves the Leader of the Opposition clinging on by a thread, while most of his Shadow Cabinet have resigned in protest.

Strongly pro-remain Scotland is now highly likely to hold a second referendum, to allow them to remain in the EU as an independent nation. There will also be serious challenges for the Northern Irish peace process.

Perhaps most significant impact however is the deep divide left by the referendum decision amongst the British public. Many of the 48% of British population who voted to remain feel a combination of sorrow, shock, anger and bewilderment that can only be compared to grief. The decision taken does not reflect our understanding of economic sense, or our view of the sort of open, tolerant, inclusive country we want Britain to be.  Brexit and its consequences feels like an unnecessary and undesirable act of national self-harm.

This is made worse by the fact that many of those who were persuaded to vote to leave did so after a brazenly deceptive and emotive Leave campaign that meant that of those who voted for Brexit did so without fully comprehending the consequences of their choice. Recent surveys show that more than 7% of leave voters now regret their vote; enough to swing it for remain.

There was no pre-referendum plan for Brexit, and it now falls to the Conservative Party as they select their new leader, to come up with one.  As a country we therefore face the prospect of a new Prime Minister, with a radically new political agenda, proceeding with no clear electoral mandate from the people.

There will be understandable demand for a General Election, especially as it is parliament that must vote to initiate Article 50 and parliament that must approve any deal that may be negotiated. In the meantime the uncertainty of Brexit will continue and I fear that we are only just beginning to understand its consequences.

 

The power to set our own path:  That’s something to be optimistic about.

By Emily Burditt, Public Affairs Account Manager (who voted Leave)

It was with a heavy heart that I made my way to the polling station and cast my vote in favour of leaving the European Union. On paper, I am a typical ‘remain’ voter –a young, university educated professional living in London. But whilst Vote Leave’s anti-immigrant rhetoric did make me distance myself from their campaign, it didn’t change my fundamental concern: that the EU is an insular, power-grabbing bureaucracy that is in permanent decline.

Nevertheless, it was a surprise to discover that, like me, millions of people had taken a step into the unknown. But despite what Project Fear (the Remain campaign) told us during the campaign, the impending disaster hasn’t quite materialised: the FTSE 100 is higher than it was pre-Brexit and the FTSE 250 (a better indicator of how the UK is doing) is back to where it was in mid-June. Borrowing costs have fallen, George Osborne abandoned his ‘punishment’ budget, and both France and Spain have blocked Nicola Sturgeon’s plans to break up the UK and keep Scotland in the EU.

Of course, there will continue to be some uncertainty, but Brexit offers us an unrivalled opportunity to create an ultra-competitive economy that meets our country’s needs and, in the long term, raises our standards of living.

Already, George Osborne has announced his plans to reduce corporation tax to below 15% – the lowest level of any advanced economy – to attract more businesses to the UK, and help our businesses grow. Interest rates will also be cut, benefitting anyone with a mortgage, and in good news for those struggling to get onto the property ladder – house prices are beginning to stall.

Brexit doesn’t mean pulling up the drawbridge – instead we will open our doors to the whole world. Although not strictly necessary (otherwise none of us would have iphones), we can negotiate trade deals that suit us quicker and easier. Unlike EU countries that have to rely on a single EU voice to barter for the conflicting interests of 28 countries making the process extremely slow (the EU has been trying to come to a deal with India since 2007), the UK will have its own seat at the World Trade Organisation. Several countries (including Australia, Mexico, India, and New Zealand) have already said they want a deal, and Obama seems to have forgotten his veiled threat that we will be at “the back of the queue”, with members of Congress pushing for a deal.

Immigration makes our country richer economically, socially and culturally, and this is an opportunity to end the discriminatory policy that puts so many migrants at a disadvantage. We should ensure that the same rules apply to all migrants, regardless of their country of origin. A more tailored immigration system will mean we aren’t depressing wages by saturating the market with low skilled workers, but instead welcoming those workers with the skills we desperately need.

Most importantly, we will be able to make our own decisions. We don’t have to stand by and accept judgements that overrule our centuries old common law, the people we elect can determine whether to charge VAT on tampons (or any other goods), or even save the steel industry. Within the EU this power was taken away from us, but now we have the power to make these decisions for ourselves, and set our own path, something that we should all be optimistic about.

Want to have your say on this issue?

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