Opinion from Paul Casebourne
Field Engineer and Reporter
The EU population is around 500 million people of which the UK contributes 66 million. Can we look forward to 86.8% less buying power, if we are not in it?
At the moment if we don’t like something with the EU behind us, it matters, without the EU, who cares? Is there an alternative?
Currently there are still 27 other countries in the EU to freely trade with and special terms in place. Outside of the EU, we are able to take advantage of trade agreements with around 50 addition markets. Upon exiting the union, we will no longer be able to freely trade or will it be possible for us to go it alone and negotiate our own trade agreements?
All our international trade and manufacturing agreements are underpinned by the EU, so power generation and metal production, for example, are arranged in a fair and supportive way for all countries. In two years this will be over, is this what taking back control means?
The UK currently has no independent trading arrangements at all. Its all done through the EU.
Many of our industrial goods and services are dependent on countries with whom no trading arrangements exist, so it is no wonder that China, America and Japan nearly fell off their chairs when we voted to leave. Could this mean they will help us?
Our national financial markets are EU structured. They have no legal status or agreements outside the EU and some of the big ones are owned beyond our control now. Have we lost the lot?
Even our national boundaries will need to be re-drawn, will Scotland kick off over the Blair Dewar Oil map and want their border restored?
…. and this is just the tip of the iceberg?
We, as a nation are demonstrating classic confusion, undermined by lack of experience, negotiating power or resources. In the 1940’s we handed over the last of our colonial trading posts and military bases to the USA in exchange for war debts over 100 bases in fact.
If we ‘hard’ Brexit, we will literally be starting from zero. No immigration policy, no education policy fit for purpose and our industries, services tied up and gagged with zero negotiating power or so you might believe.
To go it alone we will have to negotiate with not only nations but companies, international standards, re-invent our security systems and fill out mountains of paperwork for the smallest of overseas transaction or for the hire of overseas labour. None of which is required at present with EU members.
Speaking as a materials handling engineer with 45 years in the industry, I can tell you first hand that it takes a very long time to build up anything worth having in our own economy, never mind someone else’s. The notion of firing your star performer before you have something equally good in place, which we is what we have done, is quite simply financial suicide.
We have nothing better than the EU at all, never mind in place. This is Ground Zero, a total re-build.
When I last looked there were over 2m businesses in the UK, employing around 26m people, 60% in SME’s and 40% with the big employers including government and institutional.
What are we, as a nation, faced with:
• How to bring the goods and services we need into the country
• How to export and trade and with whom
• What do we do with the immigrants here and our own nationals abroad?
The 60’s saw us lose control of our core industries, the 70’s saw most of them abandoned to the far east, the 80’s saw us brining those goods back here again cheaper and better than we could make them ourselves and 90’s saw us lose control of who owns what. A long list starting with steel and mining and ending up with Rolls Royce and the Aerospace industry was left in its wake.
We are now in the age of electronic borderless communications, so you might argue that it doesn’t matter where you are, you can trade anywhere there is an opportunity and a demand, provided the government can keep tabs on your taxable worth.
The service sectors can open companies where ever they like, they don’t even need to set foot on the trading ground. We still need to make things and facilitate existence so it we are starting from Ground Zero again. What would I do for “UK Limited” to fast track progress, maintain stability and generate growth?
We know that at the end of the day, much comes down to quality at a price, over time. Often industries have a strong influence over tariffs and since the government has neither the time nor the resources to police these finer details, perhaps we should involve our universities and industrial captains in a think tank to deal with some of these issues.
The steel industry could be given a new lease of life, but we would need a well thought out policy to make it viable. We have replaced our own industry in car making by importing overseas talent, largely from Japan with China in the subcontract wings, to leave us with an assembly industry and component makers which is making a good contribution. I cite Nissan as the obvious jewel in the crown (Mrs Thatcher’s replacement gift to mining, shipping and steel) and a whole range of supporting industries to make it all viable. The automotive lobby has global muscle power than can be used to our advantage. If we can do it for them, then why stop there?
Benchmarking globally advanced industries as a model to procedural excellence is, in my opinion, the route of logistical common sense, add in aerospace and the model is complete. Together they control every known manufacturing and transport process known to man globally. So why re-invent the wheel? Keep it simple.
Food medical and garments can tag along behind and the mining and converting industries could sit in on the meeting and call foul if their automotive equivalents of Tesco’s squeeze too hard. The academics need to sit in with the construction sector, since they are the biggest steel users and we can take a view of the way forward. The government can then take a view on tariffs and off we all go.
What does this all mean in reality? Will we crash out of the EU? I doubt it, there will come a time when common sense has to prevail, and the stakes are high. So when the knee jerk reactions are all out of the way and the ‘political suicide will’ self destructs on the rocks of common sense, the industries involved will tell us how it is going to be or remove their football from the field. We didn’t let the Banks go and Europe won’t allow us to actually jump either, you don’t get money out of a corpse.
If you are in logistics or as I am in materials handling, you are probably fairly safe, since without us you all starve. So business is going to slow down in the short term, but like Mark Carney told us at the beginning it will work out fine in the end. We just need to take some common sense steps and listen to those who know how to make this an amicable divorce with a responsible out come for the children.
Mrs May’s idea of speed dating Donald Trump might be amusing, but there are a lot of dates out there and again, I think we need to make better use of our colleges and universities to help build strong relationships in these directions, lets face it intake is painfully down, so they might as well help the rest of us get it right.
Finally for what its worth, I think cleaning up our planet needs to get under way, it’s a new market with good prospects and needs engineers and investment. If Government can quietly redraw Scotlands maritime boundaries, I am sure the EU will be pleased to relinquish its responsibilities with cleaning up after our oil operations there, in return for our fishing rights back.