I Don’t Want To Talk About It (But That Doesn’t Mean That I am Going To Shut Up Either)

If one so much as mentions the fact[1]  that Britain would be worse off if it was to leave the European Union you get called a “scaremonger”. Of course, that is just a way to stop the discussion before it starts. In fact, the whole thing has an air of denialism about it; a feint whiff of “La-la-la. I’m not listening!”. It is almost like the euroseptics know the facts[1] are not on their side.

Anything can be cast as “scaremongering”, no matter how timid. When Stuart Rose[2] said that it would cost us all £3,000 to quit the EU, the euroseptics howled[3] that this was “scaremongering” while any sensible person could see that £3,000 is not even a sufficient deposit to secure a place on our great trip into the Atlantic. Since then, he has clarified that this is £3,000 a year. Given that the average salary is about £30K, this weighs in at about 10%, which sounds fairly reasonable to me. It isn’t going to persuade anybody else though.

So… Lets do some “scaremongering”.

Bwahahahaha!

[FX: Thunder and lightning. Bats. Belfries. An eastern European castle that on closer inspection turns out to have been made out of cardboard in Hertfordshire. ]

OK. I’m not really that big an arsehole so lets start by with an unusually honest disclaimer:

Disclaimer

  1. I am not an economist although I do have an ‘O’ Level in Economics that I vaguely recollect being present for.
  2. Anything I say or do may be motivated by self-interest, enlightened or otherwise.
  3. I am pulling these numbers out of my arse, just like a real economist, so take me seriously!

Predicted Consequences of the UK Leaving the European Union

Metric My “Sensible” Prediction Your Actual “Scaremongering”
Pound vs Euro 5-15% fall.[4]
Both the Pound and the Euro take a kicking but the pound gets the worst of it. Imported goods will be more expensive.
Pound permanently below €1.00.
Pound vs US Dollar 15-25% fall.[4]
The pound not be seen as the major world currency it was before. Energy will be more expensive.
Pound permanently below $1.00.
UK Stockmarket 20-40% fall with a moderate recovery to follow.[4] ISAs and pension funds will be hit. 30-50% fall with a long bear market to follow. Dividends also fall.
UK Inflation 2-4%. The increased cost of foreign goods and energy partially offset by economic slowdown deducing demand. 4-8% due to low value of the pound.
UK Interest Rates 2-3%. To try to stabilise the pound interest rates to rise slightly. 4-6%. In a desperate attempt to prop up the pound and fund government debt.
Housing The arse falls out of buy-to-let[5] but the rest of the market falls more moderately. Rents fall. Over-leveraged buy-to-let landlords lose their shirts. The arse falls out of the whole housing sector as landlords and house-builders panic. Estate agents take up organic vegetable farming.
Employment Some major companies leave and no new ones replace them. Unemployment 10%, partially offset by skilled workers leaving. Wages fall. Full-scale exodus of international companies, especially financial ones. Unemployment 20%+. Wages fall heavily.
The UK Scottish independence and swift admission to the EU and the Euro. Picks up major international companies leaving the UK. Scottish independence, Welsh nationalism and even some Unionists in Northern Ireland looking south with some envy.
The UK and Europe Allowed access to the single market at high cost. Allowed limited access to the single market at high cost. Tariff issues too.
The UK and Justice Euroseptics disappointed to discover that the European Court of Human Rights still applies to the UK. UK repudiates the ECHR and steadily reduces human rights.
Migration Refugees still want to come to the UK but it no longer attracts skilled migrant workers. Skilled workers, including British ones, follow the best jobs abroad.
The UK and the World Well, we will still be in NATO. That’s still relevant. Right? The United who?

You think Clinton/Trump[6], Xi and Putin will even notice us?

The UK and EU membership UK rejoins the EU after 10-20 years on reduced terms. No longer equal to France and Germany. UK rejoins the EU on absolutely any terms, including adopting the Euro. No longer a big player: “Get in the queue behind Turkey.”

So that’s not so scary is it? Oh? It is? Well, at least I didn’t do any mongering. At least I think I didn’t. What actually is “mongering”? Is there money in it? Does it pay in Euros? Is there a pension?

The problem is that Britain has yet to really understand its position in the world. There is too much of “Two world wars and one world cup, do-dah!”, which is also a type of denialism.  We have not understood much of what has changed since, say, 1966. We need to realise that most of our remaining clout comes from being in the EU while speaking the same language as the USA. Many international companies use the UK as a European base but do all their accounting in Euros. If we leave then Ireland and an independent Scotland will be well placed to cherry-pick that business leaving us with just the do-dah.

Still, look on the bright side. We will be in the EU in 20 years time (although possibly in multiple pieces) even if we decide to quit for a bit, slash and burn a fair chunk of our national worth and influence, only to crawl back later saying sorry and to eat our Euros quietly in the corner. Mmmm. Euros. Delicious.

Footnotes

  1. Yes, I said “fact”. Twice. Don’t worry. You’ll get over it.
  2. Who put that dingbat in charge of the remain campaign (or whatever it is going to call itself if it ever gets its finger out and does anything)? He’ll do for the referendum what he did for M&S, i.e. very little.
  3. They are good at howling, particularly when there is a full moon.
  4. Markets tend to react before events by pricing in expectations. My estimates would include these pre-reactions as part of their fall, so some of what I predict is what has already happened. Yes, I know that isn’t really prediction. I never said I was Nostradamus.
  5. This is going to happen sooner or later even if we don’t leave the EU. Buy-to-let is a classic bubble. Leaving the EU will trigger it though and it will come at a time when we are too busy with other things to deal with it properly.
  6. OK. Trump will notice us. He will think “I could put a golf course on that.”
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March 4, 2016. #Brexit, Money, Politics, Sensible.

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