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After the vote

Posted by Frank Preiss, Managing Director, ESB, on 24 June 2016. Comments: 0

So it's Brexit. In recent weeks I met almost no one among all my friends and colleagues who really thought the UK would vote Leave.

How out of touch we all were.

All the same I'm convinced it's the wrong decision, reached the wrong way, The Leave's campaign was based on a toxic mix of old-fashioned nationalism, abuse of the facts of immigration, a serious misuse of other statistics, a very poor understanding of the EU and how it works, and a lot of outright demagogery. The Remainers are themselves partly to blame. George Osborne also misused ropey economic statistics, and all Remainers except the poor LibDems, but especially the Labour party, failed miserably to put their strong. positive case.

The Leave campaign traded on British people's very justified resentment of the fact that they have benefitted very little or not at all from the government's boasted economic progress since the last recession. At the same time they have seen the fat cats in the City and industry take annual salaries far in excess of what their employees hope to earn in a lifetime.

The faults so readily attributed to the EU during the campaign are in reality almost all our own government's. This will become all too clear when our ministers can no longer blame them on Brussels.

Thinking about the next few years reminds me very much of 1992, when we fell out of the ERM and our Tory chancellor sang in his bath. It took another five years and government policies much closer to those of the EU and IMF before recovery really took hold. This is another story which was told untruthfully during the campaign, with particularly damaging effect.

I don't worry for ESB or its staff - we've been through hard times before - but I do worry for my children and grandchildren.

I am ashamed that the UK has voted to turn its back on the EU and its admirable principles of international cooperation and decision making, however undemocratic these appear to those who think Britain should always get what it wants.

Already the populists all over Europe are cashing in. The EU is threatened with disintegration. It and we are in for tough times.

I'm an optimist. Already the Leavers are talking of stretching out the negotiations for leaving to at least four years, until the next general election. I like to think that the economies of the EU will continue to grow during those years, while the UK will find life tough outside, the immigration statistics will revert to the pre-recession norm, a new British government will remedy the most glaring inequities and mismanagement of our economy, and the British people will change their minds about who we really want to be.

24th June 2016


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