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Thinking Cleary: What should influence our referendum vote?


The arguments from politicians on both sides of the Brexit debate are indecipherable – so I say better the devil you know

I cannot wait for 23 June. I am hoping that once the EU referendum vote is cast the uncertainty will start to subside and the media will have a different topic to write about. But while I am slightly bored with the Brexit debate, I fully understand how important the outcome is to everyone in this country.

I think the arguments being put forward by politicians on both sides of the debate are, quite frankly, indecipherable. Neither side is saying anything that the average person on the street can use to make up their mind and I fear this will get worse as we get closer to the vote.

I decided a while ago that I would not let anything said by politicians affect how I voted on Europe. As a result, I have already made up my mind and am now pretty much ignoring the media.

There were two things I thought about when weighing up how to vote: first, how the outcome would affect my family; and, second, what the impact would be on the country. I honestly do not know whether it is better in the long run to stay or go and anyone who says they do is either a liar or deluded. However, I am firmly in the Remain camp and here are my reasons why.

My job
Like you, I work in the mortgage market and one thing the mortgage market does not like is uncertainty. An exit would bring years of it. Bear in mind it took Greenland (with a population roughly the same size as that of St Albans) more than three years to decouple from the EU’s predecessor in 1985. It is therefore likely to take the UK considerably longer.

As part of my job I speak regularly to institutional investors and capital markets people and, without exception, every one of them has asked for our views on the impact of an exit and what we are doing about it.

These are the people who help to fund the mortgage market and, to some extent, they are price setters, so uncertainty for them is no good thing. Our response as a business is that it is impossible to anticipate the first-, second-, third- and fourth-order effects of an exit. However, the one that is most troublesome is a significant drop in the value of sterling, leading to rapid rate rises. This would hurt mortgage borrowers, lenders and intermediaries alike.

The UK is simply too small to compete with other countries. Whether in defence or economics, we would be up against 1.5 billion Chinese people, 1.5 billion Indian people, 350 million Americans and 700 million Europeans if we decided to exit. In nature, there is generally safety in numbers.

Old age
The country’s weighted average age is increasing as we live longer. Without enough young people, whose National Insurance payments will fund the state pension? Where will all the nurses, police, plumbers and construction workers come from?

The fact is that, in order to maintain or improve living standards, a country has to grow in the long run. And growth takes people. Positive net migration is crucial and by closing our borders we would potentially become insular and irrelevant as a nation.

I am also ignoring the polls, which spectacularly got their numbers wrong on the outcome of both the general election and the Scottish referendum. Instead, I look at the odds the bookies are giving as they have their balance sheets on the line if they get it wrong. The odds for the UK staying in the EU are 2/5, giving an implied probability of 71.43 per cent.



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  • Simon Blake 18th April 2016 at 4:13 pm

    “national sovereignty” the authority of a state to govern itself. #voteleave

  • Tom Fisher 15th April 2016 at 2:20 pm

    I’m sorry but this article is so full of holes it’s ridiculous.

    How ‘certain’ are EU economies such as Spain, Italy, Ireland, GREECE? Norway and Switzerland are not EU member states and yet they manage to top global resilience measures! Also countries like Greece can’t even attempt to devalue their currency because they are stuck with the Euro!

    Can we not compete? Switzerland is tiny and yet dominates certain markets, why can’t we do the same?

    Can we not defend ourselves? Do we forfeit allegiances if we leave the EU? Does leaving the EU kick us out of NATO? Don’t be silly.

    All these ‘Nurses, Police, Plumbers’ etc. that we apparently need, are there no British people for these jobs? If there genuinely is a shortage of a particular skill such as Doctors, then why not temporarily allow a small influx of qualified Doctors as opposed to an endless influx of predominately low skilled workers? If our population continues ageing then allow a MANAGEABLE influx of immigrants that our public services can handle.

    ‘Better the devil i know than the one i don’t know’ – By this logic, nobody would ever do anything with an element of ‘risk’! We’d never have joined the EU in the first place, you wouldn’t have left the house this morning, cavemen would never have tried lighting a fire!

    I love Europe, but i do not love the EU and there is a very big difference between the two.

  • paolo standerwick 14th April 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Oh how wrong you are. I cannot write an essay on all the reasons to exit in a post from my mobile but here is just a few points.

    1. We were lied to by Edward Heath when we entered the EEC – it was to be Economic only and now Political.

    2. I counted 22 out of 45 cars down my street one morning – do you think the Germans would want to lose that trade – a big NON

    3. Borders are out of control with Brussels involved. Our sovereignty like good old Aussie rules would see to illegal immigrants and curb terrorists movements.

    4. The Euro will collapse at some point so why get involved in a vanity project of an unelected few?

    5. When the UK is forbidden to buy steel from our own steel industry when we would have to buy from Poland when it’s cheaper?

    6. The devil I know is the one I don’t want to be associated with. Hence out o’s freedom and best.


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