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Opinion: Brexit? – Prepare Yourself for the Ride of Your Life

Published on: 12 Mar, 2017
Updated on: 14 Mar, 2017

Nils Christiansen, a Conservative borough councillor for Holy Trinity, wrote a series of opinion pieces in the run up to the referendum last year. Here he warns of what he fears might be in store for all of us soon…

By Nils Christiansen

It appears as if the Brexit Bill will be passed imminently and I assume Article 50 will then be triggered within days. We are therefore entering the most dangerous time for this country since 1939, and I fear the public are wholly unprepared for what is to come.

Immediately after the referendum I said in The Dragon: “We have jumped out of the airplane without a parachute.” Gravity took an immediate toll on the pound, and we are now all about 20% poorer than we were before the referendum.

Cllr Nils Christiansen

This, however, may be just the beginning. The Brexiteers have now had nine months to explain their plan, and I still see little evidence that they have one. I am not alone in this. The Foreign Affairs committee (headed by a leading Brexiteer) admitted on Friday that it, “had found no evidence of serious contingency planning”.

So nine months have been wasted by Brexiteers doing little but grandstanding about how they will somehow get a Trump-like “marvellous deal”, whilst insulting our European neighbours with whom we will have to negotiate, belittling the half of the country who voted remain, and disgracefully suggesting that the Europeans already here are our best bargaining chips.

Remember that any deal will have to be done within 18 months of article 50 being triggered, or the UK economy will hit the ground at terminal velocity with no deal at all. And 18 months is only twice the amount of time that has already elapsed since the referendum.

Leaving the EU with no deal would hugely disrupt most of our trade across the channel, and the economy would collapse (even non-experts agree on this). No-one even really knows what “falling back on WTO rules” might mean (or if it is even possible), but this kind of uncertainty is hugely damaging for business.

There is an old saying “cometh the hour, cometh the man”. Churchill stepped up in 1939, and I hope Theresa May will be the woman to step up on this occasion. Certainly I see no other party leader even remotely up to the job, but this is part of the problem.

The negotiation is going to be incredibly difficult and complex, and would be best undertaken with detailed scrutiny and challenge in parliament. That is, after all, parliament’s job. But with the only opposition coming from a Labour party at war with itself and an SNP keen on any deal which would speed the break up of the United Kingdom, I fear this will not happen.

Perhaps understandably, the government doesn’t want any scrutiny either, so we’re all left to keep our fingers crossed and hope that things will somehow work out in the end. This is not an acceptable position.

For the sake of the country it is now time for our politicians to “get real” and get to work. All sides need to urgently put the referendum behind them, acknowledge that there are good as well as bad aspects to the EU, and that there is nothing unpatriotic about seeking to retain some of its better features.

Even more importantly, politicians need to explain to the public that getting any form of deal is going to involve some difficult compromise. This will likely become apparent the day after Article 50 is triggered, as I suspect this is when the EU will deliver it’s €60 billion exit bill. Our politicians’ response to this may well set the tone for the entire negotiation.

Prepare yourself for the ride of your life!

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Responses to Opinion: Brexit? – Prepare Yourself for the Ride of Your Life

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    March 12, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    The country has weathered far, far more dangerous storms in its thousand year history. By comparison re-negotiating with a trading bloc is small beer.

    For example, parliament voted to Dissolve the Monasteries under Henry VIII, to withhold taxes from Charles I and later tried and beheaded him, to make Cromwell Lord Protector, to try and then hang, draw and quarter the regicides, to invite over James II’s daughter and husband to be King & Queen, to disinherit James II’s son, to fight several wars against continental superpowers such as Louis XIV and Napoleon and to declare War on Germany when it invaded Belgium in WW1 and invaded Poland in WW2.

    Brexit be may worrying – but all negotiations are, more or less. It is not an existential threat – like many of the crises parliament has had to address in history. It is hardly the apocalypse, but some people feel they need therapy.

    If the Executive of Guildford Borough Council gets the power to make planning decisions and removes local representation from the Planning Committee it could have a bigger impact on our local way of life than Brexit. No taxation without representation? There should be no development without representation!

    • David Roberts Reply

      March 12, 2017 at 6:33 pm

      At least there was something to be said for dissolving the monasteries. In the case of Brexit, well…

  2. John Perkins Reply

    March 12, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Cllr. Christiansen makes it sound as if leaving the EU is akin to entering a war, as Tony Blair did last year. What an insult to the people and politicians of Europe. None of us can be wholly prepared for what is to come because none of us is clairvoyant.

    We are not all poorer – only those who need foreign currency are, and then only by about 20% of what they actually spend.

    I see little evidence of people insulting our neighbours, despite the apparent threats and insults emanating from a few of them. “Half of the country” did not vote to remain, it was only slightly more than a quarter of the population, and nobody is belittling them. If the debate has remained bad-tempered, well it takes two. Europeans already here are not being used as a bargaining chip any more than UK citizens already in Europe.

    Perhaps some proof that “the UK economy will hit the ground at terminal velocity with no deal at all” would be useful. Is there any? Is there any proof that “the economy would collapse” or is that just another scary scenario conjured up to frighten the children?

    The negotiations will indeed be complex, though I don’t see why they should be unbelievably so.

    Demand for scrutiny should come from all members of the house of commons, it should not be governed by party politics. I agree wholeheartedly that it’s unacceptable to not allow any scrutiny. Perhaps Cllr. Christiansen can set a good example by persuading his fellow Conservatives at GBC to allow scrutiny of the SHMA figures supporting the Local Plan.

    The supposed “€60 billion exit bill” is merely some people’s idea of a starting point for negotiation. Rather like a beggar who first asks for £20, but settles for 50p or even nothing.

  3. Clive Watson Reply

    March 12, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    This will be our present day ‘Munich’ when we try and desert from Europe. We spent over 13 years applying to become a member and now we go it alone against the US China Japan etc.

    A sad day and one that will be a blight on our history for decades.

  4. Sue Hackman Reply

    March 12, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    It is admirable to see a local Conservative councillor brave enough to speak honestly about the realities of a hard Brexit.

    It is with dismay I have watched MPs in all parties support Brexit – any Brexit, at any cost – despite their own previous misgivings.

    I like the way Cllr Christiansen has shown integrity and proof that his principles are still in place. It is going to take people with integrity, strategy, sophistication and nuance to get us through this, not yah-boo politics and yes-men.

    Well done, Cllr Christiansen.

  5. Henry Gilbert Reply

    March 12, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Cllr Christiansen was pessimistic before and he still is.

    There is no price too high for freedom and independence. UK is great country and will fight to remain the greatest no matter what the cost is. In the same way we won World War 1 and 2 we will win World War 3.

    We import more than we export and there will be more investment in UK for this simple economic reasons. If the deal is bad we will charge tariffs on EU imports and they will charge us too but we are better off because we import more.

    There are seven billion people on this planet to trade with other than the so called single market, which is practically Germany and France – the rest are near bankruptcy and no good to us.

    It is about time to buy British and hire British and be patriotic to the UK not the EU.

    • David Pillinger Reply

      March 12, 2017 at 8:40 pm

      Mr Gilbert, peddling this outdated propaganda is not the way to interact with the outside world. The arrogance we demonstrated towards people from our former colonies and now towards our neighbours is slowly making us the laughing stock of the world. The kind of beliefs preached make it embarrassing to be British.

      Also, his economics are all wrong and defy logic. On our own we are a minion nation. The fact that we import more than export is a problem. It is called a balance of payments deficit, and not to be lauded.

      In addition half of what we export goes to our super efficient Single Market, i.e. the EU, whereas only about 12% of the EU’s exports come to us. We are, therefore, significantly less important to the EU than the EU is to us. It’s a fact. That means that we will be disadvantaged over time because we are at a relative disadvantage.

      • John Perkins Reply

        March 14, 2017 at 4:31 pm

        About 45% of UK exports are to other EU countries while 51% of our imports are from other EU countries. But the monetry values show an imbalance in favour of the EU of €2-3 billion, in other words the UK imports more from the EU than it exports to it.

        So the claim that “we are at a relative disadvantage” is wrong because in terms of money the EU has more to lose and that could be considered to be of advantage to the UK. The fact that the rest of the EU has a bigger population is irrelevant.

        • John Perkins Reply

          March 15, 2017 at 4:01 pm

          To the Editor. Is this any better?

          About 45% (not half) of UK exports are to other EU countries and 51% of UK imports are from other EU countries, although these statistics vary over time. Presumably the point being made is that in terms of perceived value the trade is more important to the UK than to the rest of the EU because the latter is bigger. Yet in absolute money terms it’s the other way around.

  6. David Pillinger Reply

    March 12, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Cllr Christiansen is right to say we should be concerned. Many people in the country are still waiting to understand what the benefits of slamming the door on our neighbours will be.

    In Guildford, specifically, we are very concerned about the negative impact of losing the fluidity given by the Single Market and cross border cooperation to business, academia, research and the NHS.

  7. Angela Henry Reply

    March 12, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    A well written and brave article by someone with integrity and common sense. Thank goodness.

    Brexit was an ill thought out idea which was purely meant to deal with internal Tory party politics. The Referendum denied vast swathes of the population the vote and in particular some of those most affected including the young and those EU citizens living here or UK citizens living in the EU.

    A referendum of such constitutional importance, had it been intended to be binding (which it wasn’t) would have required a super majority, which it didn’t.

    Most of the reasons given for leaving (if not all) have already been shown to be false.

    – No £350 million for the NHS, indeed the NHS is in a huge crisis and there is no time to devote any time or money to a rescue as this government is focussed solely on Brexit.
    – No regaining sovereignty..indeed the government admitted that we had never lost any. We seem to have done so now as the government is doing everything in it’s power to ensure that our elected representatives (parliament) have no say on any deal that is made.
    – No reduction in immigration. We already had rules that we could have used if we had wanted to. In any event we desperately need immigrants to sustain our economy, pick our food, serve our coffees, run our desperately understaffed NHS.

    We are damaging our economy (perhaps irrevocably). We are risking our national security. We are very likely to see the end of the United Kingdom. We will have less freedom (to travel, to work, to live).

    Is there anything we will actually gain from Brexit? I haven’t heard one thing that will actually benefit us in any way? There would need to be massive benefits to justify the eye watering costs to our economy, our security, our political standing in the world. We will all suffer and for what?

    I agree with Cllr Christiansen that it is vital that this process should be scrutinised, throughly and consistently. It is vital that MPs do what they are paid to do, which is hold government to account. To make sure that any deal is not only the best deal possible but is better than what we had and the best for our country now.

    The world in which we are living, with increased threats from Russia and America and an increasingly unstable Europe, is not the world in which we were living when the Referendum was decided. It is unconscionable that there should be no way of ensuring that a deal is the right one for the future and to allow for a change of heart if it becomes apparent that any benefits simply do not justify the costs economically, politically and socially.

    • John Perkins Reply

      March 13, 2017 at 9:30 am

      The young [under 18] and citizens of other countries have never had a vote in the UK, so they were not “denied” one in the referendum. Only those UK citizens living abroad for more than 15 years could be said to have been “denied”. About 72% of the UK population were allowed a vote, so who constitute those “vast swathes”?

      Perhaps all elections should require a minimum majority in order for the vote to be carried. A simple two-thirds majority of the votes cast in parliamentary elections would reduce the House of Commons to about 15 members and only two parties. A 52% minimum would still rid us of nearly 400 MPs. Much more representative.

      So many scary stories, so little fact. And, if Europe is unstable then why would anyone want to be a part of it?

  8. Martin Rimmer Reply

    March 13, 2017 at 10:18 am

    John Perkins says: “We are not all poorer – only those who need foreign currency are, and then only by about 20% of what they actually spend.”

    That comment unfortunately is not true at all. I remember Nigel Farage, during the referendum campaign, making a comment that “devaluation will allow us to overcome the tariffs”.

    To continue to successfully export we have to maintain competitiveness for our products and services by keeping our prices in the export market the same. With tariffs added our prices would increase. To overcome this we devalue our currency. So our employees lose as the salary bill, the biggest expense for a company, is thus reduced, but costs in our shops will increase. The winner is the importing country’s tax payers – from collecting the tariffs.

    For example: if tariff charged on imported goods is 20%, and the UK Pound goes down by 20%, prices to customer in overseas market stay the same. But our imported goods go up by 20% increasing costs for everyone, especially food, of which we import around 50%.

    That means we are all poorer following devaluation.

    • John Perkins Reply

      March 13, 2017 at 2:34 pm

      I accept that the second part of my statement is simplistic, but the first part, “we are not all poorer” is completely true and a rebuttal of Nils Chrstiansen’s claim that, “we are now all about 20% poorer than we were before the referendum”.

  9. Susan Parker Reply

    March 13, 2017 at 10:46 am

    I agree with Cllr Christiansen that triggering Article 50, possibly tomorrow after a forced vote through the Commons, will be a very dangerous step for which we are wholly unprepared. It’s time we stifled the bullish nationalism and started to be rather more realistic and rational about what is actually being done in our name.

    We will indeed all be poorer. This will not just affect those who choose to travel abroad but everyone.

    In this country we import approximately half our food, (and of course also import many other essential goods which we do not manufacture). In order to buy those essential goods, we need to generate foreign exchange. That means we need to sell things abroad. We already have a balance of payments deficit (we buy more than we sell). As the pound falls in value, we need to sell even more goods to buy more foreign exchange.

    The impact of Brexit on our foreign exchange is unlikely to be good.

    We sell financial services including insurance. Much of the City will be damaged seriously by Brexit. New York, Hong Kong and Chicago will probably benefit most, but European capitals are looking to cherry pick elements of our financial services sector. We will still have financial services, but the scale and value will shrink.

    We sell higher education to foreign students (who leave after their courses). Many of them are being discouraged by the more aggressive anti-immigration moves.

    We are market leaders in high tech but this sector will be damaged by being excluded from European single market regulations and it is a highly mobile sector. The specialists – many of them international – can move freely abroad.

    Our airport hubs may be excluded from European fly zones, so shrinking.

    We sell a few manufactured goods abroad (note we are no longer the workshop of the world) but the raw materials denominated in foreign currencies will now be more expensive for us (we have used up most of the cheap materials we had stored over the last year) so the net profit will be less. We have very few natural raw materials here that we don’t buy, and integrated European supply chains are now the norm, so our car manufacturers are now fearful and contemplating moving to Europe.

    Our NHS and our care services are dependent on overseas workers who are in some cases choosing to leave and in some cases being sent out of the country.

    What is left for us to sell? The government is relaxing the rules about planning, because selling off British property to non-resident investors is one source of foreign exchange that isn’t going away.

    We can take in each others’ washing, and sell Shakespeare tours – but absent tourism and selling off the countryside, our commerce will shrink and we will be poorer.

    To approach such a cliff edge with such sanguine concern is deeply worrying. We should all ask that our local MPs should represent local opinion (all the constituencies locally voted to Remain). They should vote for Parliament to be able to consider the details of any proposed deal. Wasn’t that supposed to be the sovereignty that the Brexiters wanted anyway?

  10. Ian Stewart Reply

    March 13, 2017 at 11:22 am

    The UK has had a major role in shaping the EU through the development of the single market and the push to incorporate Eastern European countries into the EU, as well as promoting many internal reforms. At the same time it has had the best deal of any of the member states with no commitment to joining the Euro, remaining outside the Schengen zone and receiving substantial rebates.

    Leaving will undoubtedly have an effect on the EU – how could it not? The last thing anyone should wish for is a breakup of the EU which would have catastrophic implications for peace and prosperity world wide. To think that the UK would be immune from these repercussions if outside the EU is delusional.

    Cllr. Christiansen is to be congratulated on drawing attention to the seriousness of the step it appears we are now finally about to take. I am dismayed by the willingness of politicians to commit us to a path of great economic uncertainty, loss of international reputation and loss of our leadership role in Europe.

    • John Perkins Reply

      March 14, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      I seem to remember exponents of the EU claiming that staying out of the Euro was likely to prove disastrous. On the other hand, joining Schengen would have been of some benefit to me and to friends of mine. As for rebates, other countries didn’t get them because they weren’t asked to overpay in the first place.

      The break up of the EU would probably have serious implications worldwide, but not necessarily catastrophic. The UK would be affected regardless of whether it was in or out. If the EU is so unstable that it cannot stand the loss of one of its members then it must surely fall apart anyway.

      We do not have a “leadership role in Europe” to lose.

  11. Harry Elson Reply

    March 13, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    All of the comments are very interesting but as usual some given “facts” are far from the truth. The pound has been overvalued for years and needs to find its level below 1.05 Euros where it has been before Brexit. The exchange rate has not just suddenly gone down; spending much of my time in Europe, I have seen it fluctuate over the last 20 years.

    What I can confirm is that the waste and the bureaucracy in Spain is unbelievable. I spend at least five months of the year in this wonderful country where billions of Euros from EU funding has been poured down the drain.

    The airport in Corvera Murcia, completed over four years ago, stands empty and rotting even though it would put Gatwick to shame. There is a high speed rail system but no one to use it and wonderful but empty motorways. I could go on but the large signs saying “Funded by the European Union” say it all.

    Don’t believe all you read; get out and see the EU in action.

    Reading a Spanish paper today they are already talking about a special trade deal as they are concerned at the loss of their biggest market – the UK.

  12. Jim Allen Reply

    March 14, 2017 at 10:30 am

    It is time those who failed to get their message across, stopped running down our country and those who have a differing mind set from the “losers” in the referendum.

    So let’s stop throwing the fog of misery and despair around and look forward to a brighter future in our country.

  13. H Trevor Jones Reply

    March 14, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    I supported the Lords’ amendment to the Brexit legislation to ensure Parliament has a meaningful say at the end of the process, to ensure a reasonable compromise solution (probably with free trade agreements of some sort) that can be accepted by the majority of the 48% as well as the majority of the 52%.

    A very hard Brexit might be acceptable to many of the 52% but to very few of the 48%, so would be very divisive for our nation. If a very hard Brexit is the only alternative to remain, that would be at odds with some of the leave campaigners’ promises given prior to the referendum, so the choice between leave and remain should at least be reviewed.

    • John Perkins Reply

      March 15, 2017 at 9:07 am

      A so-called “hard Brexit” exists only in the imagination of a few. It’s not what most want and is not the most likely scenario.

      • Brian Creese Reply

        March 16, 2017 at 2:23 pm

        If John Perkins really thinks that I suggest he starts lobbying his local Conservative MPs and Theresa May, because this is the path she appears set on. And of course, Boris Johnson has said that crashing out of Europe with no agreement at all will not be a problem.

        I think the Remainers would be a lot calmer if the current “Three Musketeers” did not seem simultaneously so gung-ho and worryingly ignorant. The serious, hard nosed people have been elbowed out by dreamers who, and Boris comes to mind again, do not really do the hard graft. They seem to ‘believe’ everything will fine, even if they can’t explain how.

        • John Perkins Reply

          March 18, 2017 at 7:56 am

          In general I find it best not to take politicians at their word.

          When haggling, it’s normal for both parties to begin some distance away from the position they intend to compromise on.

          Calling people names is not really helpful.

  14. Peter Ford Reply

    March 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    I can think of no better support expressed for the EU than that of the organisers of the National March:

    “We value the peace, friendships, relationships, rights, business & academic collaborations, economic prosperity and outward-looking attitude that European Union membership delivers; it’s best for the UK.”

    • John Perkins Reply

      March 15, 2017 at 9:17 pm

      The implication being that those who oppose the EU also oppose all those things?

  15. Patrick Haveron Reply

    March 15, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    Are there any EU Directives we actually want to give up?

    That pesky Habitats Directive for example, which prevents housebuilding within a mile of the Thames Basin and Wealden Heaths, and makes sure of the provision of alternative Suitable Areas of Natural Green Space within 5km of these.

    That would tick Liam Fox’s deregulation and growth agenda.

  16. Stuart Barnes Reply

    March 16, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Will the Remoaners never stop whingeing? They should just get used to it. We are getting out of the failed and collapsing project asap.

    If necessary we should just walk away if no reasonable deal is available. After all the real reason that the EU want to keep us in is because of our monetary contribution and under no circumstances should we pay any figure to leave. We can do perfectly well on WTO terms.

    • David Pillinger Reply

      March 17, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      The words of someone who appears to have no understanding of how things work in business and trade.

      • Stuart Barnes Reply

        March 17, 2017 at 2:20 pm

        The words of someone who just will not listen to any views but his own.

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