Retail entrepreneur Theo Paphitis has revealed he will be voting for the UK to leave the EU. Here he shares his thoughts on why:
In just a few days, we will make our choice. Should we stay or should we go?
One thing is for certain, a large part of the population is no clearer now as to which way to vote as they were when all this started, with Cameron returning from the EU claiming victory and waving a practically blank piece of paper as evidence of the tough negotiations and great concessions he was able to extract from our EU partners.
“The EU is no longer a trading bloc, but a failed experiment with unrealistic expansionist ambitions”
Now the fact that very little, or some would say none, of the debate over the past few months has been based on Mr Cameron’s hard-earned concessions, speaks volumes as to their importance in the overall debate.
I went into this referendum thinking I’m probably an ‘Inner’ but being the logical, hard-headed individual that wants to know the ins and outs of everything before making a decision (that’s Mrs P’s description of me, I like to think of myself as more of a passive, go-with-the-flow type of character), I have made it my business to follow this debate as closely as I would one of my own businesses, since the outcome will dramatically affect all our lives, whoever we are.
The first surprise I received was the remain campaign’s immediate ‘Project Fear’ claims of war and Armageddon with catastrophic consequences if we vote to leave, for both us and the EU.
This straight away raised suspicion and questions in my logical mind.
If the consequences were to be this catastrophic if we voted to leave, why the hell was the Prime Minister exposing the country to such dangers by promising a referendum which could go terribly wrong.
Secondly, why did the EU not give the PM some decent ammunition to make sure he won the minds as well as the hearts of the Great British Public?
This did not make common sense and I was feeling that what little intelligence I have was being seriously insulted, especially since in the PM’s last big EU Bloomberg speech he categorically said that the United Kingdom could thrive outside the EU.
“The debate between the Remain and Leave campaigns continued with claims and counter-claims that would have been at home in any Monty Python sketch”
The debate or lack of face-to-face debate between the Remain and Leave campaigns then continued with claims and counter-claims that would have been at home in any Monty Python sketch, culminating in the PM claiming that some of his high-profile Tory colleagues were peddling untruths and were conning the British public.
In street language, liars and conmen.
I’d love to be a fly on the wall at the first cabinet meeting after the referendum. The credibility of many of the actors in this play has been shot to pieces and cannot possibly, even in the most political jargon, leave them as suitable individuals to run this country.
If all this wasn’t enough, we had the outgoing President of the United States popping over to tell us to give up parts of our sovereignty when he can’t even get his own people to give up carrying guns.
Christine Lagarde’s IMF, funded partially by the EU and resident in Washington, told us that we will effectively become a financial third-world nation if we leave the EU but failed to point out what the financial consequences would be to the EU itself if we left, followed by numerous dodgy dossiers from the Osborne-dominated Treasury pointing to increased mortgages, lower pensions, worse health services and household income down by £4,000 per annum.
The only thing I would say to Mr Osborne on all those points is that we have a saying in business when we do forecasts.
“Poo in, poo out” (actually we use a different word, but you know what I mean) and that is exactly what has happened here with the assumptions taken in these reports, not to mention that if we took them as correct it would be a big break from the normal Osborne forecasts, thus you can see it has been incredibly difficult to ascertain any logical outcome from the debate so far.
Leave campaign arguments
So, has the Leave campaign helped me make up my mind with its claims of saving £350 million a week and this being available to be re-invested in the NHS?
Or that it would be a simple transition to negotiating new trade agreements with the rest of the world with no job losses or serious shock to the financial markets?
Or that they will be able to bring immigration down to the tens of thousands the Prime Minister has pledged twice now to do?
Sadly not, as I believe there will be a shock in the short term.
New trading treaties can be negotiated but will take time and a huge amount of resource and I find it difficult to visualise £350 million finding its way into our nearly breaking point NHS.
As for immigration, it’s true that if we leave the EU we will have full control of our borders, thus it’s our decision who to let in or not as the case may be, so technically we could allow nobody in.
“I am sure even the most hardened of Brexiteers would agree with me that immigration brings so much positivity and growth that we will need to develop an immigration policy to allow the types of people and skills that this country needs to continue to thrive”
But this, I am sure even the most hardened of Brexiteers would agree with me, would not be in the best interests of the United Kingdom as immigration brings so much positivity and growth along with it that we will need to develop an immigration policy very quickly to allow the types of people and skills that this country needs to continue to thrive, not just from the EU but also from the Commonwealth countries that are, in the majority of cases, Anglophiles with a deep understanding of the British culture that at present get prejudiced against when applying to come and settle here.
Thus, I fear the target of tens of thousands is still an unrealistic target.
In my opinion, the EU is no longer a trading bloc but a failed experiment with unrealistic expansionist ambitions which does not sit well with the British public who value their deeply ingrained democracy, unlike many of the newly democratised members with the majority of their citizens experiencing democracy for the first time.
It is difficult to imagine how anybody can really believe that you can have monetary union without political union, which is why I suspect strongly that unless the EU moves to a Federalist union (which is blatantly not acceptable to the citizens of the United Kingdom) or it majorly reforms, it will collapse with unknown consequences.
So it would seem that the only way the United Kingdom can stay in the EU is for the EU to majorly reform back to its original roots of a trading bloc, the Common Market, with less bureaucracy and more accountability.
The United Kingdom is the fifth largest economy in the world and as the EU’s biggest internal customer, we buy a lot more from them than they do from us.
We have a defence force revered the world over and a rich heritage of democracy and world trade.
Britain’s place in the world order
So let’s not underestimate our role in the world order. We are not Greece or Cyprus, who can be slapped around and punished by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats.
I have been appalled to read some of the sentiment coming out of so-called EU leaders. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said that the British people would be classified as “deserters” if they exercised their democratic right to vote leave, stirring emotions in many minds from the tragic period of the First World War and Angela Merkel further saying that if we vote leave we will not be treated with kid gloves.
This is the sort of language that has exactly the opposite effect on me and a vast swathe of the British public that will not be blackmailed or bullied, which is precisely the attitude which makes the United Kingdom great and attracted my parents to up sticks from their home in Cyprus and emigrate here with my brother and myself in the 1960s in search of a better life.
Many have followed since and I hope many will have the opportunity to do so in the future.
The business case to leave or remain in my mind is clear.
Of course there are benefits in dealing in a free market without protectionist tariffs, but not at all costs, this is not the be all and end all for the UK economy.
We trade more with the rest of the world than we do with the EU, in fact we trade with the US without the presence of a formal trading agreement at all.
The EU is becoming less significant, as far as world GDP is concerned, every single year which speaks volumes as to its economic policies and chances of success.
And should we vote to leave, I am in no doubt that we will still trade with the EU in an acceptable form, thus allowing the EU members access to the United Kingdom market in return, which is also very important for them, and any actions by the EU to stifle trade will be nothing short of cutting off their nose to spite their face.
“Should we vote to leave, I am in no doubt that we will still trade with the EU in an acceptable form, thus allowing the EU members access to the United Kingdom market in return”
Recent history has shown that even the likes of Juncker and Merkel come to their senses when countries democratically reject parts of the EU’s rules and manage to find a politically convenient solution.
So whilst I acknowledge there will be short term pain if we vote to leave the EU, I am also confident there will be long-term gain. Now the Prime Minister and the EU would like you to believe that this Referendum is binary. In or Out.
I do not believe this to be the case and by voting Out it gives rise to a third option, which is the re-negotiation of the reforms that the Prime Minister achieved, or some would say failed to achieve, bringing the EU in line with a more democratic and accountable trading community, allowing the Great British Public to reconsider and re-vote during the two-year process of leaving once we trigger Article 50, which is the official EU withdrawal mechanism.
For the avoidance of doubt, should we vote to leave we must immediately embark on negotiating new worldwide trade deals and if an acceptable re-negotiation does not transpire within the two-year period, I am firmly of the belief that we should then be prepared to go it alone.
Which is why I intend to vote ’Out’.
It would be much simpler for me to vote for the status quo as when the EU time bomb eventually goes off, I will undoubtedly be in God’s waiting room and the problem will be that of our children and grandchildren.
Kicking the can down the road is not an option for me, as I have learnt painfully at my expense many times in business, unlike politics, that this does not work.
You need to deal with things expeditiously; your first loss is your best loss and thus it’s right that this festering issue is dealt with now which is why I am voting ‘Out’.
The Prime Minister made a passionate plea for people to vote with their hearts. This in my mind is not applicable to a decision of such magnitude.
Life’s lessons have taught me that you love with your heart and for everything else you use your head.
So I implore everyone to make the effort, tough as it has been to get at the facts, to not waste their vote and vote in a logical way, whether you want to remain or leave.
Which is exactly how I’ve come to my conclusion to vote ‘Out’.
Theo Paphitis is the owner of retail chains Ryman, Robert Dyas and Boux Avenue.
This article first appeared on Theo’s website theopaphitis.com