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Brexit: don't panic. Nothing has changed except attitudes

Editorial Staff

Stay Calm and Do Business. The "Remain" camp remain in "Project Fear" mode and are busy talking down the economic prospects and talking up differences into divisions. While the President of the EU and German politicians are trying to take control, there is one - and only one - reality that needs concern anyone, whoever and wherever they are, today. The result of the referendum did one thing and one thing only: it provided that, at some point in the future, the UK will cease to be part of the European Union. But that is not today, it is not tomorrow and it is not for a minimum of two years. Moreover, the UK and only the UK is in control of the timetable for starting the process. Even more importantly, negotiations can take place before that two-year period is begun.

Media interviews in the immediate aftermath of the publication of the final result of the UK's referendum on EU membership showed that the Remain campaign had a strategy in place. BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour interviewed three young women : two "Remain-ers" and one "Leaver." A second "Leaver" did not arrive in the studio and seemingly it was impossible to create a telephone link with her or any substitute. What was most noticeable is that Remain's response was clearly co-ordinated by the Labour Party: we were subjected to the same terms and slogans as had been used by all Labour speakers from the moment it became more likely than not that the Leave campaign would win.

It was also noticeable that the Labour publicity machine was intent on taking differences and turning them into divisions. One of those differences was that those under 24 were strongly in favour of remain while those over 44 were strongly in favour of leave. One of the guests promoted the argument proposed by Labour's left that the age for voting should be reduced to 16 years. She said that the young were disadvantaged by the votes of the elderly who were out of touch and fearful of change. She, and the other guest who supported remain, inadvertently showed exactly why that is a bad idea: they both expressed "devastation" and used strong words, even hyperbole, to give the impression that something hugely tragic, on a personal level, had happened. The leave supporter, the same age, made a strong rebuttal of the suggestion that the elderly swung the vote for those or any other reasons, citing young and old that she personally knew and also pointed out that their reasons for their decisions were wide and varied. Her own family, she said, proved that the arguments that the EU preserves UK jobs were false: her father, she said, was to be seconded to a new, low cost, factory in Poland where he was to train someone to do the job he has been doing in Northern Ireland - but which he will then lose when the NI factory closes.

The "Remain" camp paid no attention to those arguments but they should. Looking at the experience of major companies such as Bosch, Electrolux, etc, it is clear that intra-EU migration of companies looking for better tax breaks and cheaper labour has created swings in availability of jobs and therefore economic results. There has been a convenient forgetting of the fact that, after Germany's reorganisation, there were major job losses in the former west as companies migrated factories to the significantly cheaper former east. Then, as costs equalised, those same companies moved to cheaper areas in Europe or on its fringes in candidate countries.

The most significant thing today is that nothing changes. The EU president, Jean-Claude Junker, has pushed for the UK to start the departure process immediately. It's not his decision. When the process starts is entirely for the UK to decide. Once the formal process is begun it must be completed within two years, under the terms of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. That period can be extended if all the remaining countries agree. There are two significant points: first, the EU is, this morning, demonstrating exactly why the UK had to leave: there will be 27 countries in the EU after the UK leaves but the original six signatories to the Treaty of Rome are having a meeting, on their own, to formulate their strategy. Even today, just one day after the EU suffered rejection largely because of its autocratic approach, it is doing exactly what has struck fear into the hearts of Britons and created a resolve for independence.

... to be continued.