By David Seymour
One of the UK’s leading bankers issues warning over EU exit
What makes arguing the case for Europe so difficult is that the perceived wisdom successfully pumped out by those opposed to the EU is that the British people don’t like it. To that can be added the most recent spin that the City is particularly set against it.
None of that is true and the lie has been given to the claim that bankers are opposed to the European Union by the revelation in the Daily Telegraph today that Peter Sands, the chief executive of Standard Chartered, is worried about Britain pulling out.
At a breakfast meeting in Downing Street, he is said to have raised his concerns with the Prime Minister. His warning could not have come at a more critical time.
All the main political parties are said to be toying with the idea of including the promise to hold an in-out referendum in their next manifestos. This is playing with fire.
While some politicians and journalists are convinced that nothing would be lost by the UK walking away from Europe – on the contrary, they believe we would benefit – many of those who have to deal with the practicalities of life in the City, as well as business, not to mention foreign affairs, defence and diplomacy, understand what a catastrophe it would be for the future of this country.
Yet it requires courage to stick your head above the parapet. The snipers in certain sections of the press are always waiting to take a pot shot at anyone who dares to speak up for the benefits of being in the EU.
So Peter Sands is not only a highly respected banker – which makes him comparatively rare at the moment – but is a man of courage and principle.
It hasn’t helped those who are concerned at the consequences of a referendum being fought here on unequal terms that Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, said yesterday that closer European integration would require a referendum in his country.
As the Daily Mail points out with undisguised glee, that would put renewed pressure on David Cameron.
Presumably during a German referendum campaign it would be explained to voters how well they have done from the EU. In the UK, we benefit by about £3,000 a family every year. Would that be explained if we had a referendum? Don’t expect to see it in the Express, Mail or Sun, or even the Telegraph.
Peter Sands has shown Mr Cameron that there are important voices which need to be listened to and which don’t come from the Conservative backbenches. And they come from people who contribute enormously to this country’s economy.
It would be disastrous for a decision on a referendum to be taken on purely expedient electoral grounds. That, presumably, is what the Prime Minister was told over the sausage and eggs on Monday. Hopefully he was listening.
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