TITLE: THE FULL ENGLISH BREXIT
DATE: 14 January – 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
LOCATION: 21-24 Millbank, Westminster, SW1P 4RS
CHAIR: JAMES ROGERS
SPEAKER: JAMES GRAY MP
Good evening ladies and gentlemen and thank you for joining us here on this interesting evening on the day before the vote in Parliament, and it is my great pleasure to welcome James Gray MP who is our guest tonight who will discuss his new book which is available outside and on sale Full English Brexit where he outlines a future foreign defence and international policy agenda for the UK.
I’m sure James needs no further introduction but I will just say a few words as we normally do. He has a long and distinguished parliamentary career, he has been a whip, a shadow defence minister, a shadow minister for rural affairs, a shadow secretary of state for Scotland and he is currently the Chairman of the parliamentary group for the regions. He is the graduate of the Royal College of Defence Studies and the University of Oxford where he was also a visiting fellow of St. Anthony’s College in Oxford for a year. He has had several books published under his name including Crown Versus Parliament and Polls Apart.
And as I said, he’s here tonight to discuss his new book – so without further ado I shall hand over to him he will speak for about twenty minutes or so and then we will have plenty of time at the end for questions and answers.
JAMES GRAY MP:
James thank you very much indeed! I think I’ll stand up, without knocking the scenery over. Well James thank you very much indeed and thank you very much to you in the Henry Jackson Society for having me. Before I say anything else, can I just say that in my time in Parliament I’ve seen an awful lot of Henry Jackson Society events and they do a tremendous job in advancing democracy. I think that the work that they do in Parliament and in areas surrounding really is tremendous and you are to be congratulated and thanked for advancing modern political debates and particularly for a right of centre standpoint you do an absolutely superb job and I’m enormously grateful to you for it. Particularly grateful for you for having me along this evening and I’m very grateful to all of you for coming.
If I could start however by saying a few things this evening that it’s not about and this book is not about. I congratulate Henry Jackson Society on getting the timing of this meeting absolutely spot on, the night before the great vote and of course I will happily talk about that a bit in a moment and what I think will happen after that.
And what the book does indeed talk a bit about Brexit and why we are having it and all that. But the purpose is to talk about not so much the process which we will go through in a moment, but what Britain will be like in the 50 or 100 years after we’ve left – what is it we’re trying to achieve by leaving the European Union rather than the means by which we achieve it. I think one of the things I find very frustrating in Parliament at the moment is that people are absolutely (inaudible) about what Mr Berko might do with them about whether or not Nick Balls might resign the whip. These are no doubt all extremely interesting matters, but the great raw history of Britain and of the world frankly what Mr Balls does with regards to this whip is not a matter of great concern to me.
But I know that it would be disappointing if I didn’t touch just briefly both on my own views on Brexit and indeed where we are now and what’s going to happen the next few days. The first thing I want to say is that the book was titled Full English Brexit because it’s not about England, it’s actually about Britain. But Full British Brexit didn’t sound like a good title. But I’m a Scot and therefore to those who would say you’re breaking up the union – it’s just a catchy title, that’s all.
I’ve also had two or three people get in touch with recipes for bacon and eggs and they were very disappointed not to get it, and again it’s not about breakfast at all. But if you look at it, the cartoon on the front was done by my daughter Olivia. Two and a half years ago, the time that the High Court was considering the matter of Article 50 if you remember. There was full English Brexit, there was a Brexit of champions, there was UKIP with cigarettes and what not. There was David Cameron’s breakfast in bed. American breakfast – Mr Trump with a copy of Playboy. Very nearly an international incident recently, I had one of the very senior people from the Trump administration came to see me about polls and after a very nice conversation about America’s interest in North and South poles I said I tell you what I must give you a copy of my book. I gave it to him and suddenly remembered its got this picture on the front of Trump with a copy of playboy.
So I sort of brought it back and he said no don’t worry don’t worry, Mr Trump does indeed enjoy a copy of Playboy. He said I shall give it to the President and he shall greatly appreciate it. So those are various different types of breakfast, but back here the final type of breakfast is Theresa May in her chef’s hat – it says Or Maybe None At All. Now not bad for two and half years ago, my daughter’s not very political but she got that just right. So it’s about the different types of Brexit you can have.
Where are we now? The first thing I think to say is that Parliament – 650 MPS are broken down into at least twenty different groupings. Not really party groupings although they are predominantly on the Tory side Brexiteers and Labour side pretty badly split, quite hard to know exactly what Labour think. But all the thoughts and the motions and all that within Parliament today are not broken down the party political lines. There are people like me, I’m a member of the European Research Group and the Pro-Brexit Organisation who believe that we should leave the European Union tomorrow and that we don’t need a deal necessarily to do so that actually as a nation we can hold our heads high without having a complicated trade deal. So we’re clean straightforward ‘hard’ Brexit group, although that makes it sound a bit nasty. There are plenty of people kind of in the squishy middle and I suppose Theresa May’s there at the moment and she has come up with this ‘deal’ which in my view doesn’t deliver on Brexit at all. It bears no relationship at all to what people voted for in 2016.
Now if you’re a remainer, that might be a good thing. One of the tactics the remainers have got wrong is by putting up Ken Clarke constantly to speak in favour of this deal demonstrates the deal is not doing what those who voted to leave want. It’s a horrible deal, all sorts of things we can discuss that further in a moment if you’d like me to do so. On somewhere in the middle there are tow, there are those who are talking about a second referendum – that’s purely proxy for remaining, I mean there’s no purpose of a second referendum apart from they hope they will win it and they hope the government will reverse what it had done. I have to say that if we have a second referendum and the remainers won, I would certainly demand a third. Best of three, don’t you think? Maybe a fourth, fifth or sixth, we’ll keep going with referendums over and over! I think the second referendum motion is totally absurd if you believe in democracy, you have a referendum and you must then deliver what the referendum told you.
Incidentally, those that say the majority was too small I’d say well actually 4% several million people is quite sufficient thank you very much indeed that’s a fine majority, a majority of one vote would have been perfectly sufficient. You don’t need more than that and the notion that it was too small or the notion that people have changed their minds since I’m afraid to say is not a good reason for revisiting that. But equally there’s an argument that a lot of people have died in the last two years and a lot of young people have got older in the last two years and therefore we must have a new referendum equally is absurd. Or at least I think we’ll do that after every General Election, after about six months a lot of those old folks die let’s have another election because you know who knows what the young people around are thinking.
Talking of which, I don’t know if you saw Channel 4 the other night, Jon Snow had a real bunch of students at the Leeds University. And Jon Snow quite plainly expected all the young people to say yes we hate this we want to stay in the European Union, we hate Brexit and all that he was actually totally disappointed they were nearly all leavers and they were very clearly not the soggy remainers that Jon Snow hoped they would be. So interesting to see, a whole spectrum of views in Parliament – the conundrum is how that spectrum of views will play out in physical terms.
Let me run through what I think will happen which may well be quite different to what will happen. First of all, the vote tomorrow will be lost, there’s no question about it at all. |The Chief Whip and the Prime Minister are rushing around like mad things – I’ve had half a dozen conversations with people at the weekend trying to persuade my view on the matter. But right now they’re running around like mad things trying to reduce the size of the majority against them. Labour will vote against them, so will the Scots so will the DUP. There are about 100 who would vote against a no deal as well. If they can get that down a bit, they will think that will look less bad for the Prime Minister. They have three or four to change their minds, but nonetheless I expect something like 80 at least Tory MPs will vote against the deal probably 100 and therefore the majority against. Something like 100-200 against.
Now the question then is, what happens next? Number 10’s view I think is that if they manage the expectations correctly then people are seeing a majority against but if it turns out to only be 70 or 80 against they will say that’s marvellous what a victory for the Prime Minister. If its 100 or 150 it really is very serious indeed, no government in recent times have lost a vote by that majority particularly not someone who is so central to the whole of government. We’re not talking here about the eradication of rats in Birmingham, this is about leaving the European Union – a really major central part of what the government is doing, and were facing a government who voted down on it tomorrow night. That’s a very serious matter for our government.
There are those who would say of course the Prime Minister won’t resign, she’s a very gutsy woman anyhow she’s very determined and I admire her for that I very much respect her personality she’s a strong woman well done her. I wish she was rather less strong because she’s ploughed ahead in the last two years ignoring every piece of advice given to her from either side. And when does feisty clear mindedness become stubbornness? Fine line there. Anyhow she may or may not be thinking what to do next. What I hope will then happen is that she will go back to the European union she will say I’m very sorry, I can’t get it through. The majority have gone against me it’s the end of the road, we can’t get this deal through particularly not the Northern Irish backstop. And therefore we hope that the European Union will start to talk sense and say in that case lets renegotiate let’s come up with a new deal. Some new approach to Brexit.
Whether they win or not I suppose is questionable. They want to hang us out to dry, they want a jolly good beating so that nobody tries the same trick in the future. And therefore the more trouble we can be in the better it can be from their point of view. Also all EU negotiations historically go to the wire. The EU loves taking at the very last moment, people come out with their ties all skewed and their heads all sweaty and they say we’ve got a deal and it’s been a very hard conversation but we’ve got the deal. The EU likes taking things to the wire. I hope that they will see sense and I hope they will renegotiate some elements of the deal whether or not they will be to be seen.
I’ll come back to the Irish backstop in one moment. There are others who would say this main argument today that if you vote down this deal a combination of the Labour party and the shenanigans by John Barricow will result in either a second referendum which may lose and then fully Brexit or indeed we might find some motion has past that says we won’t have Brexit at all – its cancelled in some curious way. Our lawyers are saying that cannot occur, for the very simple reason that the data for leaving from March is written into statutes and no amount of talk in the House of Commons can overturn statutes only statutes can overturn statutes and it wouldn’t be possible to get a new statute through by the 29th March or at least we don’t think it would be. We’ve been thinking about whether there’s a way we can get an act of Parliament through, bearing in mind an Act of Parliament has to go through several readings in the House of Commons and then the House of Lords and then the Queen for her signature. It’s pretty hard to imagine how you get that through by 29th March particularly bearing in mind that people like me would suddenly find that I’ve suddenly got 15 or 20 things that I’ve got to say in the House of Commons and therefore the chances of rushing it through are just about nil.
So I don’t think it would be possible to work on the fact that we’re leaving on the 29th of March. If that’s the case, and of course we live in changing times, then one of two things could happen. The first is as I say the EU will come back with a new deal which I hope in the case, the second is that we’ll leave with no deal. My own personal view is increasingly that while I’d prefer some kind of arrangement, most of the arrangements that we need for passports and driving licenses and medical care and all that stuff most of that has been agreed in the 570-page document and we could easily adopt all of those things very quickly and no deal wouldn’t actually be all that bad at all. Bearing in mind we’re not talking about the trading arrangements, we haven’t yet started discussing. We’re only talking about the practical arrangements for leaving the EU and my view it wouldn’t be all that catastrophic at all if we ended up with no deal. Some discomfort, some problems here and there but frankly I don’t think all that great. The Project Fear talk about massive queues at ports or people unable to drive on the continent because their driving licenses won’t work or airplanes unable to fly through each other’s air space well frankly they’re talking nonsense because the intelligent beings who run airlines and national travel organisations won’t say oh gosh your British airways you can’t come here it would quite frankly simply be stupid for Project Fear. My own view is that if we left with no deal that wouldn’t particularly matter and indeed there are those that would argue that’s quite good news. For one particular reason which is that we’d save 39 billion pounds. 26 thousand nurses for 40 years. It’s not bad is it? 26 thousand nurse’s salaries for 40 years is how much we’re spending on getting out of the EU.
Now, I’m an honourable now and I think we’re an honourable country and we must pay our dues whatever they may be whether it be civil servant salaries or pensions, if we have to buy our way out of buildings that we happen to own. Of course there are liabilities there that we have to live up to and quite rightly we should do so. But a very big part of that 39 billion pounds is purely for good will. Physical accountancy purely because we think we pay the EU a lot of money for good will. And quite frankly we’ve saved ourselves those 39 billion pounds or let’s call it 25 billion pounds for the sake of the argument. That goes an awful long way in potholes and frankly I think its great wed leave with no deal at all or alternatively we must seek a new deal from the EU.
There’s a point I want to come back to I think we just touched on it. The thing that’s truly and utterly obnoxious, other than the 40 obnoxious things in the spectator article. The truly obnoxious one centres on the backstop arrangements. As you all know the backstop arrangement would mean at least theoretically it’s possible that we would remain in a customs union in the EU for all time to come. We’d have no mean of removing ourselves from it. At the moment we have Article 50 to get ourselves out of the EU under the backstop arrangements there would be no mechanism by which we could unilaterally leave. It would only be if a panel came to the conclusion that we should leave then we could do. And that frankly is unacceptable and the letters that are being exchanged today between the EU and the Prime Minister prior to a layer of fear and that add nothing to it at all. No legal weight of any kind at all. And the EU backstop is entirely – may I come back in a second? Otherwise I’ll lose my flow –
JAMES GRAY MP:
I have one of those very simple brains, if I go off track I can’t remember where I was. I’ll come back to that in a moment. So I think the backstop arrangement is entirely unacceptable and above all apart from anything else the DUP will not support them unless the DUP support them there is no way in the world we can actually get any kind of deal through because of course it would depend on achieving anything in the House of Commons.
Supposing by some magic, lets imagine I changed my mind, lets imagine by some magic she got the deal through tomorrow night the DUP would not support it and in the subsequent motion of no confidence that would occur on Wednesday I think or the day after, the DUP would then side with Labour against the deal and there’d be a general election. So actually if you don’t want a general election the notion would be to stop this deal rather than encourage it which is exactly what the Prime Minister has been trying to argue.
Anyhow I’ve done exactly what I’ve said I wasn’t going to do which is to bang on a lot about the process. This thing here, actually I won’t tell you what’s in it that way it’ll encourage you all to buy a copy. But I just think the argument behind the book is there’s a free and independent nation state we can manage we don’t need the help or the EU. In my view, my argument is all empires throughout history whether they be the Greek empires or the Nazis or the Communists all empires fail because you can’t take different people and squash them together into one government organisation. And a nation state with 24 million people as we are, a nation state with one history welcome you here but being British is being a useful sense of government whereas the United States of Europe is not.
Now the younger generation, my six children they think oh yes let’s just be the United States of Europe. I just don’t see a remote chance of it working if we get the Greek Islanders and the Shetland Islanders together they can’t do a deal and can’t live together they’re separate people. They’re separate and shouldn’t be one body. The book then goes through the things that we could be doing in the world. Certainly with regard to diplomacy and the armed services and I don’t know if you saw it the letter this week (inaudible) saying that leaving on Theresa May’s deal was extremely bad news from the point of view of defence of the realm. So I think we’d be better off being independent apart from NATO of course. But I’d also run through for example our universities. We have the best universities in the world overall and the level of education at universities. Did you see the HJS report last week that came to the conclusion shortly I think not now we would be the second most powerful nation in the world? Fascinating really, actually the book goes through all the areas where we are outstanding at the moment and where we can make a gigantic contribution to the world which we’re perhaps not making at the moment because we’re constrained by the rules and regulations of the European Union. So it’s a heartfelt cry for freedom and independence. Our greatness comes from our ability around the world. It is simply extraordinary that we are not allowed to be members of the world trade organisation, it’s just crazy, unbelievable, we’re a trade nation, we’ve always been our success out of that we’re also a great leader of a nation. I think in terms of our Parliament perhaps not right now but overall our judiciary our constitution these things are amongst the best in the world and we can lead the world with regard to them. And you can see things like our countryside our environment all these things we are frankly better than most places in the world. One of the things I’m rather encouraging is compulsory travel for all human beings. All you’ve got to do is go to the near continent, even more so if you go to South America or Africa or Far East or Middle East you will see what true poverty is like, what true nasty circumstances are like in terms of governance and all that and actually if you look around Britain today we should be jolly please about what we’re like. We’re actually a very very pleasant, very nice place to live – got our problems? Of course we do. But actually, Britain is a fine fine fine country. And my argument and the thesis of the book is that free of the constraints of the European Union and the true leader in the world over the next century or so.
Now that James I think is enough from me probably, I hope it is. I’m banging on too much. I swayed from my thesis and I hope you don’t mind my doing that but I feel from history that’s the right thing to have done. The money of course all goes to the publisher, but I just wanted to produce the book because I think it’s sort of – I do feel very strongly that we as a nation have an enormous amount to offer the world. And if we’re not doing so at the moment and as a free and independent state post Brexit we would have the ability to do that.
Thank you very much indeed.
Thank you very much for that, particularly for your comments in relation to what might happen tomorrow or indeed in a couple of months. I think now we have time to go into questions, I’m sure we have plenty to ask. So maybe if we start by taking two at a time and if you wouldn’t mind giving your name and affiliation if you have one so that we know who you are, thank you. Yes, the gentleman here.
It’s Masato (inaudible) Japanese research journalist my question is about customs union backstop so it seems to be on the table they discuss about the limitations its acceptable for (inaudible) and next question is from the third party perspective no deal Brexit could be disaster already we have to stop investment in this country and just wait and see and we are losing your word because Thatcher gave us her word we can trust United Kingdom 100% but these days political situation is very unstable and unpredictable. How will we be able to trust you in the future?
If I can do two at a time, yes
Yes, I understand completely your argument for Brexit in terms of sovereignty as you’ve explained, I also understand the remain argument from an economic caution standpoint. What I don’t understand is the apparent extreme Europhilia of someone like Ken Clarke, Anna Suby etc. I’ve never heard any of them really explain their reasoning. I wonder whether you can?
JAMES GRAY MP:
Right, first of all the backstop arrangement would be fine if they were for one year. The problem with them is that there is no end to them and there is no means by which we can (inaudible) to them. Indeed, worse than that, it says to the European Union at best they come to an agreement with us on our trading agreements then the backstop clicks in on 31st December 2020. And thereby the right and incentive to delay the European negotiations as much as they possible can do to get to that trigger point. So you’re right, if there was a very short-term affluence finishing 31st December this year well sure I’d say fine that’s quite a reasonable thing to do let’s get back on, let’s get sorted and the backstop wont click in. But it will be absolutely certain the backstop will click in we would then be in the European customs union for all time to come with no means of escape from it, no trip mechanism to get out of it. It would bring in division between Northern Ireland and Great Britain therefore a customs line effectively down the Irish sea and that would spell the end of the Union and I actually think the Union of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland and Great Britain is terribly important and therefore we must not do anything which endangers the Union. I think that’d be catastrophic. So the backstop I think is badly designed and would be a catastrophe.
Your second question about Japanese investment in the UK led to a no deal, my instinct is and I ponder in Swindon just outside my own constituency. My instinct is Honda which to sell motors in Great Britain and indeed Jaguar Land Rovers wish to sell better cars in Japan. Business people will find ways of doing that. You don’t need to have an intercontinental international agreement to do it. One of the biggest exponents of this is my friend and colleague from my own constituency James Dyson and he makes all of this white goods in Indonesia and imports them on WTO terms into the European Union. He’s the biggest single seller of white goods hand dryers and vacuum sellers and so on in the EU and he pays a 3% tariff to do so. And he says I don’t need an intergovernmental relation to do it, I manufacture them, I import them and I sell them. And if they’re good hand dryers I sell at a good price if they’re rubbish I won’t. But you don’t need a government. And of course most trade in the world is done without any intergovernmental at all. I mean Japan has just recently done a trade agreement with the European Union after 45 years of thinking about it, but I mean leave that aside when our trade with America was by our biggest trade partner has done without any kind of trading agreement at all. We just do it. Because businessmen do things with each other and I believe we can do that and stand on our own two feet.
Where I think you’re absolutely right but I think short term is that stability and predictability are words that bond is incredible important in business and that’s what’s gone at the moment – people don’t know what’s going to happen next. And I speak to the Japanese people around Honda in Swindon and they say I don’t care really what the outcome is we do want to know because we’ve got to make all our plans and that of course is perfectly correct and I accept that. That will I hope be over in a month or twos time.
I used to think there was a generational divide between those who remembered the second world war and who believed that the European Union was some way or another a counter to it. Incidentally I think that was incorrect I think if a mad dictator appeared in France tomorrow which I thinks unlikely being a member of the European Union wouldn’t prevent them going to war. So I think that arguments always been rather daft. But I think a Ken Clark generation was slightly of that view that Europe used to be a nation state, that’s a bad thing and therefore let’s have the European Union prove wrong on that because without generalising too much the younger generation tends to be broadly pro-European I suspect that’s simply because they haven’t experienced anything else and they don’t like the risk and the change that there will be. But it’s hard to know why some of these people are so passionately in support of it. Just bring it back to a different subject in a way, I was talking to somebody outside about this. It’s very puzzling for this question of whether or not an economic union amongst European countries its very puzzling why that debate should have resulted in such extraordinary passions on either side. And I meet people who won’t speak to their wives or their friends and they completely fall out with each other. Totally vicious enmity – and that seems to me to be odd. I mean some of my friends who are very much in favour of the European Union may be right. I can’t say for sure. My instinct is my life belief is the European Union is bad organisation and we ought to be out of it but I may be wrong. I might be incorrect and they might be incorrect. And you can have a sensible discussion within this room no doubt who are passionate in favour of the European Union. But you can have a sensible discussion about that. You don’t have to say you are wrong, you swine I that you and I know where your children go to school and you’re a Brexiteer. You know its extraordinary, the level of passion that’s been brought up about this thing and I suppose the binary question and the incredible level like a football team supporting passion. I’m Arsenal I therefore hate you because you’re Liverpool quite extraordinary really and shouldn’t happen should be possible for intelligent sensible people like the Brits to discuss these things decently and sensibly then go off for a pint together.
The gentleman in green there.
A couple of things. There is the argument that the UK is one of the most successful union states in other words we’ve got free movement of goods, free movement of trade, free movement of people, free movement of capital. This is one of the things that made this country so successful by removing those internal barriers and allowing those things to move free. For example, I came from Leeds where I was born to London I don’t have to bring a passport I can freely choose to do that. So that’s really the argument for the European Union, doing that on a bigger scale with more people in which is more difficult and far more complicated. Now I just wondered whether in fact the union has been broken by this process by the simple fact that Scotland voted to leave, to remain rather and Northern Ireland did too and that might signal something significant in our history and I think the method for a full English breakfast might have a lot more going for it if you like than I know you checked and remember what you said doing a full British breakfast it may be in the metaphor there’s something more significant there. Now my last point is in 1998 the Scottish people were given a referendum where they knew what the outcome would be to vote for or against the Scottish Parliament. They knew what it was, they knew what the bill was. In 2014 they didn’t because they knew what remain meant but they didn’t know what leave meant they knew it meant some kind of independence. Now our referendum in 2016 is like this 2014 one where you don’t know what the other side of the fence. So there’s a difference between ratifying a deal and taking a principle stand.
Now why shouldn’t we as people in this country have a chance to ratify, to vote in a referendum to know exactly what Parliament’s going to vote on tomorrow which is merely to ratify or not Mrs May’s deal. I’m not talking now about reversing it –
Okay, okay, I think we got the point thank you. How about another point? Yes, please
Well the slogan was to take back control but then the point is to take that control to do what? So what are the right off centre policy options that you would like to do once we have full exit of the European Union? Then the second question is to take back control should be made by the Parliament but given what is happening it’s the confidence that we have in our own parliamentarians misplaced?
JAMES GRAY MP:
Okay. Your point sir, is of course really one which is freedom of moving capital, freedom of people, freedom of moving trade is very important. And that’s what makes a country great. And when you come down from Leeds as you correctly say you discover that you are able to use the same currency and buy the same wherever you are. That works because we are one nation. And therefore the richer parts are happy to cross-subsidise the poorer parts. Same with the whole taxation system, London and the South East raises far more money than the rest of the country put together and we allow our taxes to go and cross-subsidise the North of England or Wales or Scotland and that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do as we are one country. That’s why the European Union doesn’t work. If you go to Romania or Spain, the South of Spain, you find massive roads going nowhere with great huge EU signs on it paid for by British taxes. And Britain’s a net contributor to the EU in a very big way and most of the 27 remaining countries 20 or 22 are receivers, they’re getting money into their coughers they wouldn’t otherwise have had. That works if you think tis a hard job and our duty to cross subsidise Romania. I personally don’t believe that it is. I don’t think that I can go to my tax payers and say please pay more taxes as I want to build roads in Romania. They would say well why should you? Whereas you can do if you say you want better roads in Leeds or better roads in Scotland they’d say well that’s fine were all one country, one Parliament. So I think that’s where the analogy breaks down. I think you’re right to say free trade and free movement of capital but only where you also have a demonstrable governing organisation that takes decisions and removal if they get those decisions wrong.
The question of the union is an interesting one. People often say that Scotland voted massively in favour of remain but not true of course. Fewer Scots voted for remain than voted to break up the EU in previous referendums before. The margin in Scotland is actually extremely narrow. It’s like saying young people voted to remain. By what evidence? A few polls of course and they probably indicate by and large probable more remain you are but it’s very questionable. The notion that someone of the younger generation as a whole massive voted remain and the older generation voted to leave I think is simply I correct. My own instinct is – I come from Scotland, I’m a scot. My instinct is the people from Scotland are no more pro-European than the people of England. Indeed, thy are the same kind of people. There’s really no difference between the two. Aside the extreme Scottish Nationalists and all that lot. But by and large the Scottish people are sensible middleclass business people concerned about their children going to school and long term help for their old folk and not actually wild staring eyed blue kind of new cable tossers. I mean that in the nicest possible way. They are decent sensible people. Northern Ireland equally the EUP may not be representative of the way they voted but it’s not a gigantic amount in favour of leaving. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland voted 52 / 48 to leave. I think breaking it down leads to all kinds of concerns. I even get it with my constituency. People say that part constituency was remain, that part was leave. Well maybe they were maybe they weren’t but Britain as a whole voted to leave and that’s the only scientific thing that we know. You then went on to draw parallels between 1998 Scottish referendum people knew what they were voting for. Oh no they didn’t, they didn’t have the faintest idea what the Scottish Parliament was going to do. Not the remotest idea what the Scottish Parliament was going to do. We all tried to make up our minds about it but it’s certainly not clear at all. And I’m afraid to say I think your argument that in 2016 people didn’t know what they were voting for but now they do, I think it’s not correct as far as I’m concerned. Both 2016, 2 and a half 3 years of debate people were tired witless of the European Union by the time we got to the referendum and no one on that stage said but we didn’t know what we were voting for therefore please let us defer it and as for people now understanding what the Northern Irish backstop means and whether or not to vote for it I’m afraid if I went down the street there and said what is in Theresa May’s deal they’d look at me completely blankly and if I said we’re now going to have a referendum people don’t want a referendum – the remainers want a referendum. The people have voted to leave. The government must now find a way of leaving. I think if you believe in democracy you have to deliver on what the people voted for. Much trickier question is we voted to take back control, control of what? And I rather agree with you. It’s very difficult to point at something and say that is demonstrably a bad thing in the EU and here’s why it’d be a good thing after we’ve left.
But for example, agriculture. I’d like to think I’d say I agree with you but I’m very sorry I can’t do anything about it, it’s a matter for the European Union. I can speak to some of the MEPs but they have no influence whatsoever, I don’t know the agricultural commissioner on the offhand I can’t remember who he is and therefore the things that happened with regard to agriculture in this country I have no influence over. Whereas if agriculture were being dealt with by Westminster and Whitehall the secretary for agriculture would once again be in charge of agriculture and fisheries. Fisheries very important knowledge for example and he’d rather get it right or get it wrong. I had the opportunity to go and see him and say well I’m not going to vote for that or I want to change that, I influence him, I could actually say what’s going to happen to agriculture and fisheries over the new umpteen years in Britain. At the moment I can’t. And the same applies to most areas of business and elsewhere. All of a sudden, half a mile from this room we would be deciding every single thing that affected British people, education, health, all decided here without reference to an external body. And I think that’s good democracy. Not lease because of course if you get it wrong you can throw them out. Whereas at the moment with something like 40 or 50% of our laws which are made in Brussels I can say not my fault, post-Brexit I will be to blame and my government will be to blame and if we get it wrong – I think that’s good strong clear democracy. Which we kind of font have.
Okay let’s take another round of questions. I’ll take three at a time because were getting a little closer to time. And could you please keep your questions quite short. Yes, the lady with the blonde hair there.
So I was for remain but obviously democracy ,matters and if this is what people want then it should be followed. I don’t agree with most of the things you said but that’s democracy really. So my question is, I’m from the EU and have a master’s degree, I work in the City of London and I have a profession and am contributing to this country and I care about my rights. And my question is in a case of a No Deal Brexit what happens with my rights – can I stay in this country? Can I continue working?
JAMES GRAY MP:
yes, let me answer that very quickly. The answer is yes. Of course. The European Union residence who are here now will stay here. The notion that we are going to round everybody up and save them onto ferries and back to Europe and say get lost you lot is total nonsense. One fo the things we made absolutely plain is that you are currently here, you will remain. And indeed the new recently about immigration rules will apply to you then as well. If you remember we want high value individuals who want to come in snatch the salary of £30,000 out of mid-air might be too much might be too little actually in the City of London it doesn’t matter an awful lot. But we needn’t worry about that whether deal or no deal. We will find the people we need here whether it be in the city, doctors or nurses or teachers or NHS or agriculture, if we have a need for them here they will come here in precisely the same way as people from the rest of the world come here if we need them. So people from the subcontinent come here if they have something to offer to our society. That seems perfectly reasonable thing to do. At the moment there’s an absolute right for our 775 million people to come here at will. And I think that’s wrong. We simply haven’t got the space or infrastructure to handle that but of course people who are teaching or doctoring or being a eurobomb dealer because that’s what you are well still very much be allowed to stay with the same rights.
Okay, the gentleman at the back yes
Thank you very much. Yes, I’d like to ask this one question. Do you know of any plan that would tie foreign powers like China or India or just regular countries members of the commonwealth (inaudible) to the very solution that (inaudible)
I was wondering if you could also talk about the way that being a member of the European Union constrained our ability to make foreign policy and limit this notion of Global Britain
JAMES GRAY MP:
Okay well a few questions come together quite neatly. One of the things that I think we will be able to do post Brexit is pay much more attention to our great friends in the commonwealth and elsewhere around the world at least in the last 40 years. People talk about internationalism and then they talk about France and Germany. Actually I think internationalism is about the African countries, the Asian countries and about the South American countries and actually we all would be having good trading arrangements and cultural arrangements and university arrangements with all of those countries and not just France and Germany and Holland. And so I hope that post Brexit we will be better able to do what you described as the same as the question I was asked here. We are constrained at the moment. We cannot be a member of the world trade organisation we cannot do our own deals unless the European Union allow us to go to European universities and go to American or Japanese or South African universities it’s much harder for them to get funding to do so and I think that post-Brexit south Africa and brazil and china and Japan will be on the same footing as Holland and Luxembourg and Germany are and I think that’s very a good think I think that’s a wider outlook on the world is a good thing.
We’re a curious nation. One of the things the book tries to do is to try and analyse the British character. Which is extremely difficult thing to do because there’s no such thing of course because everyone’s rumours of a different character. But there’s certain characteristics the same and the fact that we like drinking a pint of beer and we like driving on the left hand side of the road these may sound odd they may sound trivial but actually indicative of the British character. We are independent we’re not part of a bigger thing. Whereas if you go to Holland, France or Germany they want to be part of the European Union. We’re an island nation and perhaps our islanders make us different to them. So I just think freedom from the European Union will enable us once again to look wider around the world and once again establish ourselves in being a nation in the wider world.
Okay yes, the gentleman in the green coat.
I am a psychologist and my question springs from that background and also although I am not a marketer I am familiar with the professionalism in the field of marketing and the opportunity exists now to transform the great adventure which has been labelled for the past two years by a word which I have refrained from using amongst any of my friends and relatives because such bad will arises and it’s a huge relief to be able to actually be able to speak about this matter now so the opportunity exists to refrain, rebrand that great adventure from the life or term which has labelled it to another term which I call ‘Bridentity’ and that connects with what you had just said. Now Im interested to know if there are any organisations individuals on my side who realises and who are preparing the way to go ahead with a new and optimistic adventure ahead.
Okay thank you, yes
(inaudible) extreme polarisation that you’re getting. On one hand it was no deal apparently we’re all going to starve absurd lack of confidence in this country and we can’t run ourselves even though we had done so for 100s of years as far as I can see. But on the other hand, the absurd thing that we’re the second most powerful country in the world although the USA and China might have something to say about that. What is this extreme pessimism and optimism that’s causing this absurdity?
JAMES GRAY MP:
I think both of your questions are linked to a significant degree. I think ‘Bridentity’ is a brilliant way of looking at it and we should be doing far more work on it. Maybe Henry Jackson Society for example will be a good thing to do. My nephew works for a rival organisation; he might think about doing it. We need to think more about what is it that makes Britain great, what is it we’ve got? Why are we different to the French or the Germans? Have we got more in common with for example the Americans than the Europeans? What does our relationship with the old commonwealth? What is the British identity? What are the things we’re really good at?
We’re bad at productivity, we don’t understand why. We’re good at universities, education we’re actually nowadays good at sport. But until ten years ago we were extremely bad at sport. So it would be perfectly possible to work out the things we’re good at and the things we’re not good at and why and then build on them. The book does that a little bit and pulls out some of those strands. The polarisation question I think is an extremely good one and its slightly weird I was touching on it just a moment ago. Some of the arguments are being advanced by otherwise extremely sensible people I think are very odd. My dear friend George Osborne at the time of the referendum brought forward just the most ridiculous arguments id ever heard. One of them was house prices will collapse by 18.6% and I thought goodness George by what possible mechanism could you have got that to view and incidentally are we not in favour of cheaper house prices for new starters? He then said that the stock exchange would collapse and the pound would go into economic collapse similar to America in the 1920s and all the rest of it. Total utter tosh, complete rubbish from top to bottom. I think he’s a very fine man and I admire him enormously. Very clever man, much cleverer than me. The governor of the Bank of England and every single thing he’s said for the last five years, every single prediction of any kind he’s made in the last five years has been 100% incorrect. He is wrong, he does a good job running the Bank of England I’m glad about that but my goodness me he’s not much good as a predictor of what’s going to happen. I have to say the polarisation is a shame we’ve heard these peoples’ suggestion. Today people were saying no food, no medicines, planes will stop flying. You know everything apart from a plague of frogs and the death of your first firstborn. It’s just crazy. Britain will continue to operate as we do at the moment whether deal or no deal or anything in between. We’re intelligent sensible human beings and there may be some turbulence, some interruption but the notion that somehow life as we know it is going to seize up and we’re all going to disappear down the plug hole is just total nonsense. I think it comes from the fact that we’re actually binary argument which in a general election you don’t have, a general election you have a whole raft of policies I like some of the conservative party policies and I like some of the Labour Party Policies and down the pub we can have a nice chat about that and potter which way we’re going to vote. This way is very simple. Either you like Brexit or you don’t like Brexit and I’m going to make a very patronising remarks and I can do that in a room full of intellectuals at the Henry Jackson Society and most of these extreme polarisations are made by people who haven’t thought through the issues as all of we in this group have. Indeed, the thickies. And thickies get hold of the wrong end of the stick and they frightful burliest about it. Whereas if you’re that bit more intelligent than everyone in this room is you’re able to sort of think through the things more carefully and come up with a bit more balance.
Okay we’ll take one more question, yes the lady here
Hi I’m an economist and I just want your broad view in terms of the GDP of the economy so you keep on mentioning about the UK is in terms of a microscale but my concern is in terms of a macroscale bearing in mind the UK exports a lot to the European Union and imports a lot in goods and services from the European Union so I would like to know your point in terms of what will happen to the GDP in the long-term and the short term and also do you think there will be another recession because obviously the export and import sector is not just one thing that contributed to this GDP. And I just want to hear your view.
JAMES GRAY MP:
Sure, well I’m not an economist so forgive me if I get this wrong but my instinct is freeing us up from the constraints of the European Union will allow us to trade with the rest of the world and therefor our trade will significantly increase. I also don’t believe our trade with the European Union will decrease in any shape size or form because BMW need to sell our cars in the UK just as much as Honda needs to sell our cars in the European Union so there may be some disturbance to it all but frankly business people in my experience are very good at finding way round. New rules come in about the customs consequences it won’t take a rainy afternoon for bigger businesses to work out a way of getting round that. A new department or another way around. So I believe a trade with the European Union will remain the same or get bigger. Our trade with the rest of the world will get much bigger. However, you do then touch on the matter that and again om no economist I am concerned about things like for example the trade war between America and China and there are plenty of people around who are talking about a global recession coming up neither about Brexit no doubt people will take the opportunity to blame it on Brexit but I am concerned about but trade restrictions or the kind that Trump’s chosen t levy against China never work. It never works, protectionism is always a mistake. Free trade, we must have free trade and Trump must have done what he’s fine. I’m concerned about what will happen in the next two or three years globally but that’s totally separate from Brexit.
Okay I’m afraid we have no further time for questions, the room has to be closed down. But thank you very much for coming and thank you also to James for coming and sharing his views with us on this important evening. So thank you and thank you. I’ll just remind you that the book is outside to procure and I’ll also remind you if you may that on the 16th so two days after the vote we have another event on the future of Europe and the UK’s role within it. So thank you and I’ll see you again.