As the Brexit bandwagon rolls on, we spoke to two key figures – one from the world of politics, the other from the media – to get their views on what the result of the EU referendum (51.9% voted to leave the European Union) means to them and what they think it means to the UK.
A popular after dinner speaker, the former deputy chair of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) Suzanne Evans is well known for her outspoken views.
We asked her if she was surprised that Brexit got the majority of votes. Suzanne said that she always believed the Leave camp could win the referendum because “the damage our [EU] membership has done to Britain and the British people – particularly those on lower incomes – is abundantly clear to the majority of the population”.
However, she concedes that the final vote was a surprise in some ways and she didn’t let herself believe that Leave had won until she saw the words "BBC Forecast: UK Votes to Leave” at the bottom of her TV screen!
“I expected it to be close though,” Suzanne told us, “because the government did such a thorough job on pushing an ‘apocalyptic’ agenda, and indeed it was.”
We asked Suzanne whether she believed that Brexit would wake up a sleepy UK political arena and force British MPs to change their traditional approach to politics.
She replied: “In my experience, politicians are slow to ‘wake up’ to anything. At the moment, many of those on the Remain side are still very much asleep, preferring to pursue their own prejudices against those of us who voted Leave rather than wondering how on earth they could have got it so wrong.”
According to Suzanne, many politicians who preferred to stay in the EU are claiming that the people who voted the opposite way are “old, racist, thick et cetera, despite clear evidence to the contrary”. Even worse, she says, the Remainers are fuelling the media agenda and causing deep divisions in society as a result.
“It’s most unedifying,” Suzanne said, pulling no punches. “Politicians who claim to respect democracy then quite clearly do their best to undermine it are not those for whom I have any respect. They called ‘Leave’ bigoted, but in fact they need to take a look in the mirror where that is concerned.”
One of the apocalyptic messages that has been put forward is that the UK economy will now move backwards, people’s homes will be worth less, their pensions will be worth less and their outgoings will increase. Not surprisingly, Suzanne disagreed with this doom-laden approach when we asked her where she thought the UK would be in five years’ time.
“Out of the EU, of course,” she said, “and with trade deals signed with all those major world economies the EU failed to sign deals with: Canada, India, South Korea and Ghana have already been banging on our door to sign up and more will follow. The pound will be strong against the euro, which will still be on the brink of failure, if not having already failed, and we will be thanking our lucky stars we are no longer responsible for any more euro bailouts.”
Suzanne went on: “Our public services will be stronger and less overwhelmed as the impact of our new points-based immigration system kicks in, and our economy will be growing as we invite the brightest and best from around the world to come and live in and contribute to Britain provided they are self-supporting. I would like to think democracy in Britain could have got a shot in the arm too: the turnout for the EU referendum was ground-breaking. We should have more of them, on issues of greatest national importance, say at least every two years.”
Finally, we asked Suzanne who she thought would be the best person to lead the UK post-Brexit and make it an independent and stronger force in the world.
“I have been so impressed by Andrea Leadsom throughout the EU referendum campaign,” she said. “She’s the MP for South Northamptonshire who’s currently Minister of State for Energy and was previously Economic Secretary to the Treasury. She has been relentlessly positive and competent throughout. If the Tories don't choose her as leader, she must be the new Chancellor. If I had the power, I’d install her as Chancellor tomorrow while David Cameron sees out his notice period.”
Although Suzanne’s role post-Brexit is effectively over – because she was part of the team whose sole purpose was to deliver a ‘Leave’ vote – she still believes that she could have some kind of role going forward and she has declared that she is open for offers!
To get an alternative viewpoint – perhaps one not so up-beat – we asked financial journalist Anthony Hilton of the London Standard, who is one of the most in-demand business speakers, whether the referendum vote went as he expected.
He told us that the outcome was probably what he anticipated but he had refused to allow himself to expect it. One reason for his believing that Leave might win was that the Remain campaign “was truly dire throughout” so it was hard to be confident that it could deliver a resounding victory.
We wanted to know from Anthony – who has been City Editor of The Times, Managing Director of The Evening Standard and Editor of Accountancy Age magazine – whether he thought the volatile behaviour of the markets immediately post-Brexit had been justified.
“Volatility in the markets is totally justified,” he told us. “How do you put a price on a business asset when you have no idea how that asset is going to earn its return in the future?”
Anthony said that the immediate economic, business and political impact of Brexit is likely to be uncertainty, especially if the United Kingdom is weakened by Scotland voting in a second referendum to become independent (Scotland voted overwhelmingly for Remain).
However, to ensure fiscal and political stability in the short-term, the next steps the government would need to take would be to appoint a new Prime Minister – effectively, the choice is Boris Johnson or "anyone but Boris" – and then put together a road map through the summer.
However, he added: “What we really need is a general election to ask people if they really meant to vote the way they did. At the very least, Parliament should have to approve in advance any move to invoke Article 50, which sets the clock running for exit from the European Union.
So… two quite different takes on the EU Referendum and on what the future holds for the UK. Whichever camp you find yourself in, there is no doubt that the decision to go to the people and ask them whether or not to remain part of the European Union was one of the most momentous ever undertaken by any British government.
The Prime Minister has said that the will of the people must be upheld – quashing calls for a second EU Referendum – while the Chancellor, the Governor of the Bank of England and other prominent figures are working hard at putting out positive messages about the strength of the British economy and the direction that the UK will be taking in the foreseeable future.
There are new developments virtually every day on this incredibly important subject and a number of speakers we have available are among some the most knowledgeable in the country. Get in touch if you want to book one for your forthcoming event.