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Dragon Interview: David Pillinger, Remain Campaigner

Published on: 26 Jun, 2016
Updated on: 26 Jun, 2016

In the wake of the most important political decision in most of our life-times The Guildford Dragon has asked two those who campaigned locally for their view.

Here David Pillinger, is a Guildford resident who has worked for 33 years in international business and leading Remain campaigner, gives his personal view.

David Pillinger

David Pillinger

Do you accept the result of the referendum and that it is now inevitable that the UK will leave the EU? What do you make of the petition asking for another referendum with a higher threshold? Have you signed it?

To give perspective to the question, the Single Market defines the EU and I consider that any problems in the running of the institution are mere ”teething issues” which, like the shortcomings of Westminster or Guildford Borough Council, can be resolved.

It was never going to be easy to make such a large grouping of nations work efficiently, and I believe it is a miracle that a Single Market has been created at all.

It has huge benefits to which I have been able to attest in my career in business in a number of companies, large and small.

I echo the vast majority of people with direct experience of the workings of the EU in saying that this referendum has been an embarrassing exercise in populism.

We understand fully, but don’t agree with, the reason for which it was called. We are surprised that no thresholds were set, causing some 35% of the electorate to have determined action on a matter of such import that our economy and image around the world are now in great jeopardy.

Remain logoThe so-called nationalistic tabloid press and a number of politicians turned their campaign effort towards misinforming vulnerable people with lies, yes, lies, and unsurprisingly many voted without the slightest understanding of the EU.

I understand that many people who voted Leave are now waking up and asking themselves whether they had actually cast a vote to give the Government a bloody nose, as is the habit in a mere mid-term bi-election.

I have never believed in referendums but I can understand the bitterness of the people who are signing this petition for a re-run with proper alternative questions and rules and I am considering whether to sign it or not.

How difficult will the negotiating an exit deal with the EU be?

I have no doubt that as a fairly small country, with limited capacity for growth compared to emerging economies, we will be in a comparatively poor position to negotiate with strength.

In the case of the EU negotiation, specifically, the 44% of UK exports we have at stake is far greater than the EU’s 17% that come to the UK. We are in a weak position before we have started.

Anyone who cares to disagree with me because the 17% represents a bigger absolute number should note that percentages measure the possible hurt factor. It is much easier for the EU to walk away from 17% than for the UK from 44%.

With regard to trade deals with the rest of the world, the massive difficulties encountered in the EU’s ongoing negotiation with an increasingly protectionist USA is an example of how difficult these things will be for us as a small player acting alone.

You have to live in cloud cuckoo land to believe that we can negotiate better deals than we can within the EU, whether with the USA or any other country in the Commomwealth or the world. The “Vote Leave” side has disseminated much misinformation regarding this.

What are the main changes you foresee in the UK once we have left?

I believe that we will not leave; I trust that common sense, the House of Commons, our democratically elected legislature, business and the overwhelming weight of evidence that the EU is highly beneficial and that the free movement of labour has enhanced resources for public services rather than pressurized them, will prevail.

The three million people who have signed the petition so far are testament of a swelling grassroots message of informed people with a lot at stake.

What should and can the government, under a new Prime Minister, do to take into account that 48% of those who voted wanted to Remain?

The House of Commons should consider whether 35% of the eligible electorate’s view in a populist referendum is reason enough to trigger an event that experts are agreed will be damaging.

The 52% : 48% outcome is not democracy, but the result of an exercise in populism. This would apply also if the result had gone the other way.

Why do you think Guildford bucked the trend, along with the majority of Surrey, and voted to Remain?

London and Guildford have in common generally well-informed and open-minded people. They have a high number of people working in international businesses who see the benefits of integration and the overwhelming value of the skills brought by expatriate workers for the benefit of the UK.

Many Guildfordians work in London, the city with the highest concentration of foreign workers and have no problem with this. It is senseless to us that some of the areas with the least number of foreign workers voted overwhelmingly to leave on the basis of “uncontrolled migration”.

Do you foresee a realignment of British political parties following this result?

The situation is complicated. I see the professional classes who are the natural constituency of the Conservatives voting tactically against Vote Leave Tories,

I see people in the Labour heartlands being used as puppets by proponents of scary nationalistic and xenophobic ideals, I see a risk of Scots and Irish no longer considering themselves as brothers and sisters of the English. For sure there will be realignment.

Wasn’t it important that the referendum was held so that the will of the people, on a one-person, one-vote basis, be known?

Referendums are not democracy. They are vehicles for populism. In California two referendums in close succession voted for lower taxes and increased expenditure, that is, completely opposing populist demands.

Government, like everything, needs to be managed and one should not give the people a vote other than to elect informed representatives who can evaluate the big picture.

If one must have a referendum, however, it should always require a 2/3 majority and 75% turnout (or commensurate proportion) to guard against the possibility of an important decision being passed by less than 50% of the eligible electorate.

Will you remain politically active? If so, how?

I am not a politician. I consider myself to be just someone who lives in Guildford with experience of the benefits of EU integration who felt he needed to become involved in the campaign. I am not after a career in politics. However, I will continue to extoll the virtues of the EU as it is clear that many people have little understanding of what this organization achieves for ordinary men and women.

You will continue to hear from me.

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Responses to Dragon Interview: David Pillinger, Remain Campaigner

  1. John Lomas Reply

    June 26, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Not doubt if the 52% to 48% had gone in the other direction, then David Pillinger would have been acclaiming it as a massive triumph and unchallengable.

  2. Henry Gilbert Reply

    June 26, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Out is out.

    The UK is a great country and only the British can make her great again. Whatever the economic consequences are, it is a small price to pay for freedom. Did people forget what is the meaning of national identity? Or do people want to be controlled by Germany and France? Have they forgotten history?

    We must unite and create the new UK outward looking for the world and not controlled by a collapsing, dictatorial EU.

    The vested interests of the individuals should be surrendered to the interests of an independent free country.

    The referendum was democratic, why does anyone want to be autocratic and ask the MPs to overturn it?

  3. Sue Doughty Reply

    June 26, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    The interesting point is that the majority of MPs themselves do not want to leave, and in law the referendum is only advisory not mandatory.

    Sadly many people believed that £350m a week would indeed go into the NHS and put that way, they thought their vote would make this happen. Of course it won’t. We have no historical or constitutional precedent for this situation where victory was gained, in part, based on a manifesto which was not going to happen.

    Any future referendum should have a higher threshold for change to avoid this terrible situation.

    Sue Doughty is the former Lib Dem MP for Guildford and chair of the Guildford Lib Dems.

    • C Stevens Reply

      June 26, 2016 at 6:55 pm

      I can’t think of an election in my lifetime in which the gaining of victory was not in part based on a manifesto which was not going to happen. That’s politics. Look at Guildford and have a think.

      As to a threshold, I can’t find that there’s much in the way of precedent anywhere on the planet and would observe that it would undercut the simple democracy of the exercise.

      What MPs want isn’t the issue here. It’s what those who went into the polling stations want and it’s for MPs to see to it that that happens.

  4. Sara Gutierrez Reply

    June 26, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    Insightful summary and spot on in all respects.

  5. John Robson Reply

    June 27, 2016 at 9:08 am

    What a dummy spitting appraisal, only the professional classes have the ability to determine their own destiny do they? Have we been transported back to Victorian England? I am so sorry that the working classes have impacted one’s portfolio.

    The government provided the mechanism and rules on which the people would decide the future of this country, they also set the tone for the acrimonious barrage of misinformation from both sides.

    Now they don’t like the result, how many people voted, the social class of the people who voted or the majority rules philosophy. Strange that none of this was questioned prior to the result.

    The people who bothered to vote to Leave, 17 million of them, have spoken. They form the majority, you cannot be selective when it comes to democracy.

    The response from former MP Ms Doughty, tells you all you need to know about the arrogance of politicians and how far out of touch they are with the vast majority of the the people in this country.

    Finally, Europe are now bending over backwards and are desperate to do trade deals with the UK, how times have changed.

    Now that we have their attention we just need some competent negotiators to represent the fifth biggest economy in the world. You have to be in “cloud cuckoo land” to continually undermine the ability of this country to stand on its own two feet.

    Does anyone still think that our leader has to be pre-selected from pure blue blood stock? This kind of representation has hardly served this country well thus far.

  6. Sue Hackman Reply

    June 27, 2016 at 10:07 am

    What concerns me is the speed with which the Brexit leaders are reneging on the policies which won the campaign: immigration, £350m each day redirected to the NHS, disruption to the economy as ‘scaremongering’.

    I think David Cameron might have been right that they were telling lies.

  7. Richard Stanford Reply

    June 27, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Well one thing is for sure. David Cameron leaves behind a ship that has hit the rocks. We may be able to refloat it, but do we expect the rejected, nay insulted, French, Germans and Dutch to come to our aid?

    Whatever the political processes, we have just turned our back indignantly on neighbours who, until Thursday, did at least like us.

    I dread the future for our children. A closed country in the global 21st century – really, what have we done?

  8. Stuart Barnes Reply

    June 27, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Almost unbelievable codswallop and sour grapes. Why are the Inners such poor losers? The people have spoken and that’s it.

    To use a little of G K Chesterton: “We are the people of England and we have spoken now”.

  9. John Perkins Reply

    June 28, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Once again it is repeated that European countries might cease to trade with the UK after it leaves the EU. Nobody should believe it.

    David Pillinger claims that 44% of our exports are at risk and only 17% of EU exports and that actual numbers have no relevance as the percentages represent some sort of “hurt factor”. Just as the cost of EU sanctions against Russia fell disproportionately on Finland, so the cost of the EU “walking away” from trade with the UK would have greater impact on some countries than others.

    The UK imports about twice as much from Germany as it exports there and the German economy is only about one third bigger so Germany would be “hurt” more than the UK. The country that bankrolls the EU will not be as keen to “walk away” from the UK as is claimed.

  10. Robert Park Reply

    July 3, 2016 at 11:13 am

    The views Mr Gilbert have expressed should have been challenged much harder earlier in the campaign. If they had we might not be in the appalling situation we now face.

    In what way have be lost our national identity? We are what we have always been, a proud independent sovereign nation with a rich culture and history – as are France, Germany and all the others.

    We are not, repeat not, controlled by Germany and France, any more than they are controlled by us. Especially bearing in mind that we are not in the Eurozone or Schengen area. All that happened is that we ceded a little bit of sovereignty in certain strictly limited fields, to do with the efficient operation of the single market, in exchange for the other countries ceding a little bit of theirs. In the process, we all became stronger.

    The EU is not dictatorial. The key decision making bodies are the European Council (28 democratically elected heads of state) and the freely elected European Parliament, in which the UK has 73 MEPs. The EU Commission is their civil service, which works on the details of legislation, just like our civil service does here.

    The commission needs the approval of both the European Council and the European Parliament before any of its proposals become law. I suggest you study for more detail.

    These bodies co-operate to agree common solutions to common challenges, which cross national frontiers (like climate change), sometimes compromising in the process. What on earth is so dreadful about that, that we should risk wrecking our economy for?

    Mr Gilbert and people who think like him have been allowed for far too long to peddle this erroneous notion of loss of freedom and identity. It’s a pure fantasy and it’s sad that so many believe it.

    • John Perkins Reply

      July 3, 2016 at 4:24 pm

      The quasi-democratic European Council is not a key decision making body of the EU, its purpose is to give an overall direction to the EU and the EU Commission does not need its approval to make laws.

      Furthermore, there are circumstances in which the unelected EU Commission alone, or with the agreement of the unelected Council of the EU (not the European Council), may pass laws without the approval of the elected Parliament.

      • David Pillinger Reply

        July 4, 2016 at 4:17 pm

        To be fair, every system of government suffers from some “democratic deficit”. The UK is one of the worst in Europe with its first past the post system in the lower house, unelected upper house and hereditary head of state.

        It is clear John Perkins cares about this sort of stuff, so maybe he should lay off the relatively more democratic EU institutions and look at who runs your day to day life in the UK. Or maybe his agenda is different?

        • John Perkins Reply

          July 5, 2016 at 10:31 pm

          This debate has been about the EU, not the UK. The EU institutions are considerably less democratic than those in the UK.

          That is not to say that the UK institutions are perfect. I believe that first past the post is a failing voting system and that the House of Lords should be elected rather than appointed by birth or by politicians. The monarchy is almost irrelevant.

          The difference is that the UK system can be changed, whereas the EU cannot.

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