The book contains some errors of judgement—and of factby George Magnus / April 22, 2016 / Leave a comment
The UK Referendum, An Easy Guide To Leaving The EU by Gerard Lyons
Read more: It’s time for Vote Leave to come clean
Historically, populist movements have drawn support by preying on insecurity and uncertainty. As the wonderful historian Margaret Macmillan has written, these movements evoke the past to persuade supporters that “good times” can return. They offer assurances and the certainty of control. And they also claim to deliver a new economic dawn. Today in the US, by way of example, Donald Trump is promising to make America great again. The UK’s Vote Leave campaign is, in a sense, behaving in the same way by alleging that Britain, stripped of its EU ties, can be independent and proud as it once was (in a bygone era). The publication of a new e-book by Gerard Lyons, The UK Referendum: An Easy Guide To Leaving The EU, is part of this narrative.
Lyons is Chief Economic Advisor to Boris Johnson—one of the leading campaigners for Britain the leave the EU. The good thing about his tract is that it is short—44 pages. It is not an idiot’s guide to the debate; as the former Chief Economist of Standard Chartered Bank, he can frame a discussion skilfully. It is written for non-specialists and is therefore readable and accessible. So, what does he say, and is it persuasive?
The tract first looks at the birth of the European project after the Second World War. It then outlines how the UK’s relationship with Europe has evolved. Although Lyons claims in the introduction his arguments will be balanced, the chapter “The UK will not lose influence with Brexit” fits with his strongly-held view that the UK is better off on its own. There follows chapters on the Single Market, membership costs, immigration, the City, trade, effects on jobs and investment. This leads to his inevitable conclusion—that we should abandon the EU.
The book contains some errors of judgement—and of fact. Lyons admits that Brexit would lead to some uncertainty in the economy (surely an understatement), but then argues this would be followed by a strong economic recovery. If there’s one thing economists have had to acknowledge since the financial crisis, it is that disequilibrium situations can persist. Short of…