Letter to my employees about the Brexit referendum
20 May 2016 - Bruno Prior
The CBI think that bosses should inform employees about Brexit.
This patronising suggestion is typical of the Confederation of Big Business, and of a Remain campaign that will use every trick in the book to try to influence people through authority and intimidation, rather than through reason. You may suspect, when the bosses of our big corporations gang up with our political leaders to try to sell something, it may be more in the interests of the corporatist establishment than in the interests of the people they are selling it to.
For what it's worth, the result of the referendum won't make much difference to how our business runs.
If the pound is weaker, imported pellets will be more expensive, but (a) they will be more expensive for everyone else too, (b) they probably won't be so much more expensive that they will be more expensive than British pellets, and (c) if they were that expensive, we would buy more British pellets.
Moreover, the likelihood that the pound will be weaker if we vote out has been greatly exaggerated. You may have noticed that European countries outside the EU like Switzerland and Norway have strong currencies and economies, whereas the Euro is a terrible compromise between an undervalued currency for Germany
and an overvalued currency that is crippling Greece, Spain, Portugal, etc.
The main drivers for our business are UK energy policy and the cost of fossil fuels, particularly oil. If the pound were weak, oil would become more expensive, but so would pellets, so that balances out, if indeed the pound weakens much. There is not much other reason why Brexit would affect the cost of fossil fuels.
UK energy policy is influenced by EU energy policy, but not as much as people think, and not in a good way. Most of the stupidities of British energy policy are our own, not forced on us by the EU. Some EU countries, like Sweden, Denmark and Finland, have relatively sensible energy policies. Other EU countries, like the UK, Germany and Spain have thoroughly stupid energy policies. The EU allows a lot of flexibility for countries to achieve their agreed obligations by their own means.
The real influence of the EU on British energy policy is that British politicians will often use the EU as an excuse when they are implementing something that a monkey could tell was a bad idea. That may explain why so many of the politicians campaigning for Remain are the same politicians who were complaining about the EU until the referendum came along. They don't want to lose their scapegoat.
They try to hide their hypocrisy by saying they are campaigning to stay in a "reformed EU", as though Cameron, Osborne, Clegg, Brown, Blair, Major & co weren't in a position to negotiate that reform for the past 25 years, if it was available. Apparently, the EU is going to get much more amenable to the UK's view once we have voted to stay in.
If the referendum won't make much difference to your jobs, and our British politicians are more culpable than the EU for our rotten energy policy, you may think there's not much in it as far as your work goes, and you should therefore make your judgment based on other things. And broadly, you would be right. This isn't really a vote about whether you will be richer or poorer. This is a vote about whether you want to be governed from Brussels or from Westminster.
But I think the experience of our business and our industry does suggest an answer. Being in the EU hasn't given us good politicians and civil servants, and getting out won't magically make them better. But while we are in the EU, they will continue to use the EU as an excuse, and get away without taking responsibility for their bad ideas. If we are out of the EU, they might implement policies that are just as bad, but they will have to take responsibility for them. When elections come around, and they have to justify the policies on their own merits rather than blaming the EU, we are more likely to kick them out if the policies were bad. They will be under more pressure to implement policies that they can defend. From time to time, we may get sensible energy policy, which has been in notably short supply for the past 25 years.
This democratic accountability, without the EU to excuse political follies, may be why countries like Switzerland and Norway are doing so much better than countries in the EU. It is extraordinary that the economy is being treated as Remain's strong point and Leave's weakness. It is perfectly obvious that countries inside the EU are having a terrible time economically, compared to those outside.
We are supposed to ignore this, and focus instead on predictions-dressed-up-as-facts by our institutional elites, for whom the status quo is so convenient. Trust what you can see for yourselves now, not what someone says things will be like in the future. No one knows what will be. Our prosperity will be in our hands one way or the other. But I have enough confidence in the British people that if politicians are really answerable to them, without the excuse of the EU, things are likely to turn out better than if we let them keep their excuse and they keep governing in the interests of the elites. It is working for Switzerland and Norway. It can work for us.
This is just about what we can learn about our relationship with the EU from the industry we work in. For the broader issues, I highly recommend watching Brexit The Movie:
Of course, it is made from a Leave perspective, but just because Martin Durkin has an opinion, that doesn't make his opinion wrong. There are a lot of facts in there. Watch it and see whether you think the facts support his opinion, or whether you think he doesn't make his case.
Whichever opinion you hold, I hope you will vote on the 23rd of June. This will affect the future of our country more than a regular election does. You should show the politicians that you care, to make them care about what people think.