Pro-Brexit business voices must keep on countering the myths propagated by the Establishment

Pro-Brexit business voices must keep on countering the myths propagated by the Establishment

Over the last five years in terms of outcomes, the free democratic world has seen more than its fair share of results where the exercise of that democracy has confounded the pollsters and shocked and belied the conventional wisdom of the Establishment. And has divided countries because that possibility lies at the heart of democracy but need not lead to the divisiveness which can be an allergic reaction to a dose of democratic medicine.

In the UK the election in 2015 of a Conservative government under David Cameron on a manifesto which promised a referendum on our membership of the EU started a ball rolling which has proved unstoppable but has not yet come to rest. And along the way the rhetoric and volume of political discourse, commentary and dissent increased to what at times has been a febrile, often ill-informed and unedifying cacophony.

But each time over that five years that the British electorate has had the opportunity, through the privacy of the ballot box, to express its view on the topic of EU membership the silent majority has delivered a consistent verdict that they prefer to be outside the EU but, by definition, alongside our European neighbours. From 1st February, at long last and despite the efforts of many of those in the minority, that is where we will be. And with a bit of luck the remaining noise may die down, but I doubt it.

In my case, and I would not be alone, my relief following the 2015 election was tinged with the elation of the prospect of the UK being able to express its a view on EU membership. On 24th June 2016 my elation was tinged with disbelief that Vote Leave had won the Referendum – against all the odds and despite the coordinated forces of Cameron’s government, big business and the received wisdom of the serried ranks of economists, academics, celebrities, the SW1 commentariat and what we can all recognise but eludes definition as the metropolitan elite.

That almost forgotten feeling of elation returned on Friday 13th December 2019, but this time was accompanied by huge relief that those same forces arraigned against Vote Leave – which had then worked ceaselessly to prevent the referendum verdict being implemented and had been aided and abetted by the chicanery of politicians who went back on their word to implement the decision of the British people – now really had to accept British democracy doing its job.

Those of us who campaigned to leave the EU are already inured to being told by those who have struggled to come to terms with the result why we voted to Leave and that we do not care about our childrens’ future, are ignorant, racist, bigoted, Little Englanders, uninformed, consigning our country to economic suicide etc etc… the charge sheet goes on. To suggest 17.4 million people do not care about the prospects for their children whereas 16.1 million do is patently illogical, if not absurd, especially when, in the next breath, we are told that it was the older generation (who by definition have the most children to care about) that are also charged with swaying the vote.

One thing which is irrefutable, however, is that we all did know what being a member of the EU felt like and whether we saw it as the force for peace, security, economic and social well-being, academic excellence and democracy which it believes and holds itself out to be. We should not decry those noble sentiments, but we are entitled to demur from them and hopefully we can now all move on from the ‘I know better than you’ battle lines of the referendum debate as effectively we are all Leavers now.

So what can we learn from looking back at how events have unfolded since June 2016? Those of us with backgrounds in the British business community but outside the world of SW1 and Davos might be tempted to sit back and say the last battle has been fought and the war has been won. But the business voice of that silent majority – all those who own, run, work for or depend upon British companies (95% of which do not trade with the EU which only accounts for a diminishing 13% of our economy) – must continue to be heard.

These British companies, small and large, are responsible for the 70% of our economy which is domestic and many will also be relishing the prospect of the UK being able to sign trade deals, not just with the big Single Market of the EU on our doorstep, but also around the rest of the world where global growth is happening. These businesses typically just ‘get on with it’ and often do not see the need or usefulness of trade bodies and the spokespeople who claim to ‘speak for them’ and who depend on these organisations or quangos for their livelihood. They are quite capable of speaking for themselves, but without a platform struggle to make that voice audible.

Already the well-oiled and well-resourced forces from business and the Establishment that opposed Brexit throughout are regrouping. Like warriors dancing around a new totem pole in the night, we hear the drums beating and the war-cries chanting of the dangers of another cliff-edge of leaving the EU at the end of 2020 without a deal and the dangers awaiting us and threatening our future if we do not succumb to the demands of the EU nations. This has the makings of Project Fear v.3 and like the myths of its predecessors and of those totem poles, they need debunking and the views of all British businesses should be heard, not just those with the loudest voices. There is even a case for establishing a group called, say, Business for Brexit, to campaign in a similar way to the successful Business for Sterling and Business for Britain campaigns, which helped keep the UK out of the euro and formed the basis for the Vote Leave campaign itself.