Cameron Penny is a financial services lobbyist.
“No one in the official campaign is calling for less financial regulation”, said John Redwood as he addressed the audience at TheCityUK’s recent EU referendum debate. No one except for Crispin Odey, Jon Moulton and a few other former and current big cheeses from the world of finance who did exactly that a few weeks prior when they signed an official Vote Leave letter that stated; “Specifically, we worry that the EU’s approach to regulation now poses a genuine threat to our financial services industry and to the competitiveness of the City of London.”
No one can credibly deny that those in the City and the wider financial services industry who support Brexit are in favour of looser regulation. They see in Leave an opportunity to free themselves from onerous requirements regarding transaction reporting or being more transparent about the value chains that support their business models and how they communicate to their clients. All the while they ignore the fact that the UK has invariably gone further and faster than our EU overlords. That is a deliberate choice because it is the considered and not wholly barmy view of the Chancellor and the Governor that the UK benefits from having a well-regulated financial industry that is predisposed to higher, not lower, standards of integrity.
Such contradictions from Brexiteers aren’t restricted to financial services. Take immigration; on the one hand they want an “Aussie-style” points-based system and yet that same system means that Australia has a rate of net migration that is 40 percent higher than the UK on a per capita basis. They bang on about the need to “control immigration” whilst simultaneously claiming this is so they can open the door to thousands of vital workers such as curry house chefs. If anyone credibly believes that the headbangers in UKIP and the far-right, EDL-linked elements of the Brexiteer fraternity favour letting more of any outside group into the UK then they are deluded.
Or let’s take trade deals, I recently spoke on a panel alongside representatives of Leave.EU and Better Off Out. On the one hand the audience was told that we didn’t need trade deals because we could rely on WTO protections (which are minimal at best) and on the other we need to leave the EU so we can go around the world striking deals with every nation. Bring up the inconvenient truth that trade deals – of any description – take years, an army of trade experts and political attention and the Brexiteer will smugly tell you how the nations of the world will be clamouring at our door to do deals that are beneficial to the UK. They are especially keen on the Germans who apparently will kowtow before us because we’ve got a penchant for anything with a three-pointed star on the bonnet.
Fundamentally these groups cannot reconcile their differences on policy and on personality things are so poisonous they have not just one campaign group but two. On the ground these cartoonish personality politics aren’t seen in all their supporters. The Brexiteers I know are thoughtful people who rightly diagnose serious flaws with the EU. But then I’m a London-dwelling, communications professional in a long-term same-sex relationship or as some might say “part of the metropolitan elite.” A great many of those in support of Brexit have not dwelled long and hard over it, they haven’t picked off the geopolitical threats of leaving and subsequently decided that, on balance, we would be better off out. At the top of the official and unofficial campaign groups what you are seeing is what happens when venomous people, united by a common constitutional fetishism, are thrust onto the public stage. It is a nasty, narrow and divided group who would seek to cleave us away from the largest economic bloc in the world and launch a pre-emptive leadership bid against one of the most successful Conservative leaders since Lady Thatcher, all whilst giving a veneer of respectability to some of the most hate-filled elements in Great Britain.
The recent and predictable steer back towards the topic of immigration only highlights this and day after day fair-minded Britons will have to ask if they really want to vote for a cause that would evict people who are their neighbours, friends and colleagues. People who might be their doctor, plumber or IT technician as much as their “domestic help”. They will dwell on whether we’re a country of Trumpesque politics which demonises outsiders and would sacrifice economic success to make a point to the bureaucrats in Brussels. As they do this they will see the nastiness of those they are being asked to support, the narrowness of their interest and they will ponder whether such people, divided as they are, could ever be part of the future of this great country. I believe that once they do that they will choose to vote to Remain in a reformed EU.