Tim Martin: 'Remain' campaign shows contempt for British public

By Tim Martin

- Last updated on GMT

Martin argues the EU is undemocratic
Martin argues the EU is undemocratic

Related tags: Eu, European union, International trade, Democracy

In my message below, I have tried to deal with the main points which have been raised by both sides in the great national debate about the EU. One point which has not been challenged by the IMF, the OECD, the Treasury, Goldman Sachs or any of the other organisations which favour ‘Remain’ is that democracy, prosperity and freedom are inextricably linked. 

The EU is fundamentally undemocratic, and that contention has not been challenged.

I’ve told you what I think, but it’s your vote that counts.

David Cameron told us that the EU needed “fundamental reform” and many agreed. However, he achieved only token changes, but misleadingly said his renegotiations were successful. It was at this point that many open-minded people chose the ‘Leave’ option.

The former governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, recently criticised the subsequent  debate about the EU for being fought “like a PR campaign”.

Modern politicians are advised by expert election ‘pollsters’ that arguments should be boiled down to a few words, which are then repeated ad nauseam by all the candidates, causing public disenchantment, but apparently winning elections.

I have always felt that the public is far more intelligent than many pollsters or politicians think and believe that we are perfectly capable of taking a more analytical and intelligent approach.

Economic

Mr King also made the interesting point that history’s lesson is that both sides got it wrong in the 1975 referendum on the Common Market – whether we stayed or left made little economic difference, in his opinion.

King’s view as to the impact of the decision in 1975 was echoed in respect of Brexit by businessman Stuart Rose, former chief executive of M&S and chairman of Britain Stronger in Europe, which advocates ‘Remain’.

Rose told a no-doubt-startled Times journalist (17 October 2015): “Nothing is going to happen if we come out of Europe for the first five years, probably. There will be absolutely no change.”

Michael O’Leary, chief of Ryanair, a ‘Remain’ supporter, adopted a similar line in an  interview with the Financial Times (24 February 2016). He said that Brexit would “not be the end of the world”. Willy Walsh (Evening Express, 26 February 2016), chief of British Airways (now called IAG), reflected O’Leary’s view, saying that Brexit would not have a “material impact” on his business.

Disastrous

These sensible views are disastrous for the Remain camp, of course, since they utterly contradict the Cameron/Osborne main case – so all three appear to have been silenced. In their place, we now read gory headlines from politicians forecasting the end of civilisation as we know it, as well as a plague of locusts, if Brexit occurs.

The detachment and elitism of Cameron and Osborne are demonstrated not by their education at Eton College, but by the contempt for the intelligence of the public, which is implicit in their ludicrous scare stories.

The best example of grossly misleading information was a recent warning from Chancellor George Osborne.  He said that, following Brexit, the economy would weaken and the pound would go down, therefore inflation would go up. As a result, interest rates and mortgage rates would go up.

A perfectly accurate Guardian headline (15 April 2016), for example, said ‘George Osborne says Brexit would drive up mortgage rates’, with similar headlines in the Times and other papers.

The problem with this analysis, designed to frighten householders and businesses, is that it didn’t happen like that the last time, following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Inflation

Yes, the pound did go down and yes, inflation did go up. But what happened to interest rates and mortgages?  They went down, George. He knows this, of course.  Pants on fire, as they say…

Cameron and Osborne, in their disreputable approach, have concentrated on getting the elite clubs to back them. The Treasury sounds independent, but is not – its boss is Osborne.

It has said that the average family will be about £4,000 a year worse off, if we leave the EU, by 2030, arriving at this number by forecasting a half of one per cent per annum less growth over the next 14 years. 

This is complete and utter fiction and is just massaging numbers to get the result the boss wants.

Wrong

As an example of the Treasury’s wrong predictions, it urged the UK to join the predecessor of the euro, the ERM, in the late 1980s. The ERM collapsed in chaos, with a million UK households in negative equity, and widespread bankruptcies, two years after we followed its advice.

Not content, the Treasury subsequently advised that the UK should join the euro, once its five ‘tests’ were met – ‘wait and join’ as it was described.

The Treasury became possibly the biggest laughing stock in financial history when one of the tests turned out to be the ‘convergence’ of the UK economy with the eurozone (stop laughing, I beg you…). 

As I said at the time, Port Talbot had never converged with St Albans or Germany with Greece – how could the UK converge with Portugal? 

I’m sorry to say that the Treasury is famous for being unable to forecast a few months ahead and is doing Osborne’s dirty work in this case.

Cameron and Osborne also claim the backing of the OECD, a club for 34 countries, which is run by Osborne’s pal and receives £35 million per annum  from the EU.

Twenty of the club members are in the EU – not surprising that the EU backs the UK to stay in the EU…

Cameron and Osborne even persuaded the charismatic Barack Obama to chip in on their behalf. But Obama’s Brexit views are surely irrational for an American.

Mega-successful America has been built on a constitution, written over two centuries ago, in which democracy is deeply enshrined. ‘No taxation without representation’ was the mantra when America claimed independence from Britain.

The pillars of American democracy are an elected president and congress, the latter divided into a senate and house of representatives and a supreme court.

No serious American, including Obama, would consider reducing democracy by handing over their powers to an undemocratic international organisation, which is what Obama is advocating for the UK.

Unelected

For the UK, the European Court is supreme and our laws cannot override its judgements. In addition, laws can only be instigated by the European Commission, whose members are unelected and cannot therefore be removed by voters. There is a European parliament, but it is not really democratic. It is remote from voters, cannot instigate legislation, and the UK, for example, has only 73 MEPs out of a total of 751.

Since Americans would justifiably never accept the transfer of democratic power to an organisation like the EU, their president should not ask UK voters to do something he would never advocate for his own country. Do unto others, Barack…

Obama also said that the UK would go to the “back of the queue” in negotiating a trade agreement with the US, in the event of Brexit. 

This illustrates an important point about international trade. The EU doesn’t have a trade agreement with the US and neither does the UK. 

 But that doesn’t stop Apple, Microsoft, Facebook or a thousand other companies from trading here, nor does it stop America from being our biggest export market for spirits, Rolls Royce engines and myriad other products.

At Wetherspoon, we know from our own experience that trade is worldwide and agreements with the EU are of limited value.

Producers

For example, we are, I believe, the biggest seller of wine in pubs to the UK public. EU countries France, Italy and Spain are some of the biggest wine producers in the world.Yet we buy 95% of our wine from South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

On many occasions, we have made serious efforts to source wine closer to home, assuming that there must be a better deal to be had, but have never been able to match the quality and price. 

So, where are these dreadful barriers to trade which will cause the type of horrendous problems Cameron and Osborne talk about?

Freedom

A glance around the world surely demonstrates that only democracy can deliver prosperity and freedom.

Compare the enormous success of the democratic USA (for all its faults) with the historic problems in South America, which did not have the advantage of the American constitution; or compare South Korea versus the North or West Germany versus East.

Will the UK be better off out of the European Union?  Of course. Just look at what is happening now – the EU is already removing democratic powers from member states.

Just ask the Greeks or Portuguese, who have lost control of their interest rates and budgets, the main powers of any democratic country.

Youth unemployment in those countries is around 50 per cent and overall unemployment is around 25 per cent.

The PR campaign run by Cameron and Osborne has emphasised, until now, the illogical point that the ‘Leave’ supporters can’t ‘prove’ that it will be able to negotiate a free trade agreement with our EU friends after Brexit.

It’s impossible to prove the future, and the common sense of voters will see through this ruse.

Trading

As an illustration of how trade works in reality, at Wetherspoon, we agree on long-term trading agreements with our biggest suppliers, usually from five to 10 years.

An agreement with our very biggest supplier is coming up for renewal in a few months. Can Wetherspoon prove that it will be able to negotiate an approximately equivalent agreement with that supplier in the future?

Of course we can’t. But common sense comes into play – we’ve been dealing with this supplier, as with most of our main suppliers, for 35 years and it would be extremely surprising if we couldn’t agree on a deal to the satisfaction of both companies.

Stronger

But if we can’t agree on a deal, then we’ll find another supplier. It sounds harsh, but that’s business and that’s trade…

The UK is in an infinitely stronger position than Wetherspoon, being the fifth-biggest economy in the world.

We’re the world’s number-one buyer of Champagne, for example, and are massive buyers of French cheeses, German cars and many tens of thousands of other products.

It cannot be seriously suggested that the French, Germans and others will wish to cease trading with us or will be able to afford to – especially since the EU sells twice as much to us as we sell to them. That trade imbalance puts the UK in the driving seat, as any buyer will tell you.

Finally, an implausible argument of the ‘Remain’ side is that the EU helps to prevent war in Europe. This is completely untrue – democracy is the biggest protection against war. 

Previous wars resulted from a lack of democracy. I personally believe that the UK could completely disarm (which I don’t advocate) and we would be under no danger whatsoever from our German or French friends, provided that they retain sufficient democratic powers.  

When was the last time a properly democratic country threatened war against another properly democratic country?  In any event, NATO, not the EU, is the alliance created to provide collective defence, and almost no one suggests that we should leave NATO.

Madness

The UK public saw through the madness of the euro, in spite of its promotion by the then prime minister, the CBI, the Financial Times and most of the great and good of the UK and Europe.

I believe they will see through the superficiality of the Cameron/Osborne scare stories now.

Most people will say yes to a common market and free trade; yes to friendship and co-operation and yes to free movement of labour among countries which are in the EU today – but we can achieve these aims outside the EU.

Cameron, Osborne and their advisers don’t think the public is intelligent enough to deal with the deeply disturbing question of the increasing lack of democracy in the EU. 

They have completely ignored the issue and have no answer.  That’s why they’ve reduced the debate to absurd stories about economic devastation and war, if we leave. 

But the public is far more intelligent than any narrow group of politicians and businessmen.  

By regaining democracy and power over our own future, we can make our own laws in this country and elect and dismiss our political representatives – while retaining good relations with our good friends in Europe and the world.

Continuing to give away power to the unelected elite in Brussels is a dangerous and unpredictable path.

Tim Martin
Chairman

Related topics: JD Wetherspoon

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