Britain votes to leave the EU

Today is a sad day for Britain and for Wales. The UK has voted to leave the EU.

Here in Wales we have overwhelmingly benefited from EU membership. Between 2007 and 2013 alone we received over £1.8billion in structural funding from the EU. Our universities prosper through EU co-operation and funding, a brand new campus in Swansea has just been completed – thanks to EU funding.

Those who have fought for remain, from across the political spectrum, have fought with love and wisdom. They have put aside party politics to fight for a greater, a stronger, a better UK – a better Wales. Thank you to everyone who got out and campaigned, who leafleted, who talked to friends about the benefits of the EU. Thank you.

Today we look back on what we have lost. Tomorrow we get together to help our broken and bruised country get back on its feet. This is a time to come together.

European Movement Council of Wales President Wayne David MP added, “While we are disappointed with the result, this is not a time to turn our backs on opportunities for international co-operation. We should continue to have a positive relationship with our European neighbours and negotiate the best trading relationship possible with them.”

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Why isn’t Germany planning to leave?

By Peter Sain Ley Berry, Treasurer of the European Movement Council of Wales
When you hear the Brexiteers blaming the EU for this and for that one thing that they never seem to acknowledge is that whatever the EU does, we are a full part of its deliberations and decisions.
If the EU isn’t handling the refugee crisis well,for instance, then it is we that aren’t handling the refugee crisis well.
Brexiteers are not big when it comes to offering solutions as to what should be happening.  It is easier to blame ‘Brussels’ than to say what you think the British Government should be doing in Brussels. 
And of course when it comes to practicalities – for example what exactly might happen at the Irish border after a Brexit, their solution is to wave airily and talk of negotiation.  But just imagine Ireland in the EU and Northern Ireland outside. That alone is a recipe fo mayhem.
Actually the British Government is doing a great deal in Brussels that is extremely positive but about this you hear not one squeak from those seeking to detach ourselves from the sea anchor of our Continental partners.
Having been the power behind the Single Market, Britain is seeking to extend that market to digital services which at the moment are still hemmed in with restrictions.  The greater part of Britain’s much needed exports are services and completing the digital services market would be of immense value to us.  
Lord Hill, the British EU commissioner responsible for financial services is also seeking to build a capital union market so that investors can invest in business on the same terms right across the Continent.  Again this would help Britain disproportionately.  Again this is something that the Brexiteers discount and would gladly throw away.  Besides the notional but unachievable idea of a ‘independent’ Britain, such practical gains that create jobs and income and improve the quality of life count for nothing with them, apparently,
If leaving the EU were such a good idea then why is Germany not leading the way? 
Germany pays more money in and gets less out.
With her strong manufacturing base Germany could survive outside the EU with no problem at all.  So why isn’t Germany wanting to leave?  The Brexiteers can’t answer that except by advancing quite specious reasons which effectively boil down to the fact that we are an island and Germany isn’t.
No, Germany wants to stay in the EU because, like Britain, it derives very considerable advantage from EU membership;  in trade, certainly, but also in all sorts of other ways including a greater influence in the world.
 What is absolutely certain is that all the other members of the EU want us in, not because they want to do Britain down or exploit us, but because they realise that only together are we safer, stronger and more prosperous.

SECEXIT – A LESSON FROM HISTORY

By Peter Sain Ley Berry, Treasurer of the European Movement Council of Wales
They need us more than we need them – they need to continue selling their manufactures to us. Of course we can negotiate a deal.
Where might we have heard these bright confident words before?
Let’s go back 150 years to ‘Secexit’  which is what the leaders of the Confederate States of America might have called their attempt to escape from a political union which, they felt encroached on their sovereignty.
That attempt, as we all know from the historical record as well as ‘Gone with the Wind,’ began amidst great optimism and ended in dismal failure.
Yet what is remarkable is that the sentiments voiced by those leaders were very similar to those being voiced today by those who want Britain to secede from the European Union.  The confident assertions of the secessionists then are being repeated today by those who are sure that once Britain exits the European Union, the world will be falling over itself to beat a path to our door.
In 1861 the Southern States of North America were at the time the world’s greatest producer of raw cotton and Britain was the world’s greatest processor of that cotton.  Britain was also the world’s greatest industrial power.  Britain needed to export its manufactured goods (as did the nascent manufacturing industries of the northern American states)
The Southern States were therefore confident that Britain would put overwhelming pressure on the Government of President Lincoln to let the Southern States secede in order to guarantee the flow of cotton would continue.  The secessionists were confident that this strategy, known as ‘King Cotton,’ would trump everything.
Indeed so confident were they that they didn’t bother to do any elementary homework (another characteristic perhaps of the Brexiteers today)!  They didn’t ask Britain about its attitude to secession, nor to the prolongation of slavery which secession would have meant; nor even about the glut of cotton sitting at that time in Lancashire warehouses.
When war broke out Britain did not intervene as the South had hoped and as their enthusiasts had predicted.  Instead Britain took a slump in its cotton and textile industry on the chin rather than be seen to acting against the interests of those in the North who wanted to keep the Union together and to abolish slavery.  The North blockaded southern ports, the southern economy was ruined and the rebellion collapsed.
Madly and brashly the leaders of the Southern States had tried to reach for an illusory and brave new world without doing their homework and without heeding the warnings. It is a pity there weren’t a few more scaremongers about.
Of course today the remaining countries of the European Union will not face Britain with a ‘hot war’ – but making life uncomfortable for us in terms of trade is far from impossible.
To say so isn’t scaremongering.  It is merely considering the possible downsides of Brexit, something any prudent business needs to do.  History is there to be learnt from.

Project get real

By Peter Sain Ley Berry, Treasurer of the European Movement Council of Wales

We must beware of the Leavers labelling our warnings as ‘Project Fear’ which implies (to their troops) that we are only scare-mongering. I like to call these warnings, ‘Project Get Real’.

I have watched last evening Patrick Minford debating with Peter Hain on The Wales Report on BBC Wales.  Minford, a macroeconomics professor in Cardiff, got away with all sorts of assertions, the nub of his argument being we can be free-trade Britain and anyone who says differently is scare-mongering. These people need to be pinned down and made to spell out their policies. It takes two to make a trade relationship (or any other relationship). They cannot be allowed to assume that our free trade proposals will be signed off by the other party, or that we would not have to abide by EU rules if we wanted to sell there.  It is not a question whether we want to trade freely.  We are not going to put a tariff on French wine and cheese or German cars; but when we want to sell them our goods and services then we shall run up against the EU’s external tariff barrier.

Minford also kept saying how strong the UK economy was and how weak was the rest of the EU. With its high debt, budget and trade deficits, Britain’s economy is actually not in a good position at all! A real case of the pot calling the kettle black.  I keep coming back to the thought that if leaving the EU is such a good idea, why isn’t Germany leading the way? Germany contributes far more to the EU budget and it exports far more.  Germany could survive outside the EU much better than us, so why do the Germans want to stay?  Possibly because they actually do rather well out of the EU.

Another of his arguments was that we were constantly outvoted in the EU’s decision making.  Really?  It is Britain that is pressing for a unified European capital market and the completion of the digital services market, both of which would benefit the UK greatly. Just as with the Single Market itself, far from being outvoted, it is actually the UK that is leading the way.

Finally I have just read that David Owen (who left the Labour Party over Europe to become one of the SDP’s ‘Gang of Four’) is now backing Brexit.  This isn’t surprising but I wonder whether anyone listens to him any more.  An aged loose cannon if ever there was one.  Even his former acolytes have deserted him.

The ‘European Construction’

By Peter Sain Ley Berry, Treasurer of the European Movement Council of Wales

Back in the 1980s, when I first started to be involved in European matters, there was much talk on the Continent of the ‘European Construction’ sometimes referred to as the ‘European Project.’ That there is less talk of this today in no way reassures those who think that Europe has already gone too far or fear that Britain will be dragged against its will and lose its identity in some sort of ‘superstate.’ Despite these doubters and naysayers the European Construction is nevertheless there in the minds of most people even though at times like the present it becomes less of a focus of people’s attention as issues like migration and the British renegotiation crowd out wider thoughts.

At the beginning the European Construction was as much a physical as a metaphorical construction. Even as late as the 1960s much of Europe still lay in ruins; as late as the 1970s democracy’s writ ran in less than half the continent and it took until the early 1990’s to free the Continent from Communism. The European Construction was therefore a project not only to rebuild Europe physically, but politically, too, embedding the primacy of democracy and recognising that while each of our states was different to the next, and while we lived in an amalgam of languages, customs and cuisine, we shared a common heritage and all had known war, partition, displacement, refugees, inflation, rationing and so forth. Surely, the cry went up, there must be a better way.

And so the desire to move collectively away from that black grimness and toward something that better reflected the great traditions of European civilisation was born. There was no final plan, or confidence that we would ever arrive there. But we could nevertheless travel hopefully, a step at a time. We could sense the direction without being asked. And we were united by the recognition that by acting together we could achieve more, both internally and externally than we could if we all went our own separate ways.

This was the European Construction; this was project hope. The great issues facing the world were global in scale and needed to be tackled from a Continental perspective. This is the full sea on which – at least until the date of the referendum – Britain is embarked.

We who have been part of this Construction for the past 43 years and who have given
Europe so many things, not least the Single Market, will be sorely missed should we leave.

We have been a powerful engine, not just in our own cause, but providing the energy and political drive to secure EU membership for the new states beyond the original borders.

The bell will toll if Britain leaves but it will not toll for Britain alone, it will toll in each and everyone of the remaining member states who fear that a leg has been kicked away from their stools, and for a reason no one can quite understand. No one compels us to stay on the bus, but few can understand why we should want to get out with our heavy luggage and walk. Few will have much goodwill either to a false friend who causes trouble and deserts at a time of crisis, Crisis over migration; crisis over Russia.

The European Construction will not stop if Britain leaves but it will change direction.

Germany will become more dominant, whether the Germans want this or not. The Union
will become less stable less able to take a consistent position in world councils. And what will Britain get in return?

After hubris comes nemesis.

What would the consequences of Brexit be?

By Peter Sain Ley Berry, Treasurer of the European Movement Council of Wales

Let’s start with what we know. Standard and Poor would lower Britain’s credit rating: they have already announced this. Other agencies could be expected to follow suit. This would increase Britain’s borrowing costs and cause the pound to fall. Goldman Sachs reckons it could fall by 20%. It has already fallen by 6% since the Brexit negotiations began. This would set inflation rising.

Share prices are already falling. Uncertainties surrounding possible new trade regimes could send the economy into a slump with inward investment projects drying up and domestic investment put on hold. Jobs would be lost and the Chancellor forced to cut public expenditure further and possibly to increase taxes as well.

Until the EU treaty providing for Britain’s exit is signed no-one is going to want to seek British collaboration in any new European project, whether of university science or anything else. Meanwhile the American President will consult France and Germany over the refugee crisis and the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. Britain will be left out in the cold. Like a beached whale, in effect.

Almost certainly David Cameron will resign as PM following a Brexit vote. Probably George Osborne will too, for there will now be no way of his eliminating the budget deficit by 2020. Other Ministers may well resign too. If Scottish voters have voted to remain in the EU then Scotland will call for a second referendum which could well lead to the break up of the United Kingdom.

After Brexit the government will need to put in place policies to replace those EU programmes of which we shall no longer be part. Agricultural support and foodstuff regulations are cases in point. Given the shortage of time to negotiate new systems with interested parties, the likelihood is that the British Government will have no alternative but simply to continue with the European provisions currently in place. The same will hold true for most business regulation. We shall be out of Europe but Parliament will be busy turning European laws into new Brexited British laws.

Abroad the destabilising effect of Brexit on the rest of the European Union, coinciding with the US Presidential elections, could well tempt Russia into further land-grabbing adventures, possibly in the Baltics. Britain would be in no position to react firmly.

There will be considerable ill-will towards us including from those (eg in Eastern Europe) who have been staunch allies. Britain has turned its back on them, their migrants and our share of funding for their European programmes. They will not be looking to do us any favours. We shall be made to pay for our behaviour. Perfidious Albion will again be the curse on the Continent’s lips.