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EU vote: Blowing hot and cold on Europe

Why should we be dragged through the lengthy, costly, difficult and ultimately destructive process of parting company with the EU, just to keep one slightly deranged businessman happy that he’s making a shedload of money?

By: Sterling Pound – Business Editor (© 2016)

It hasn’t come as a shock, to be honest, that Sir James Dyson, the ludicrously overdesigned vacuum-cleaner salesman whose personal fortune has been estimated at some £3 billion, has made a lapidary statement about Britain leaving the EU, coming down firmly on the side of the Brexit campaign.

Of course we can trade with other countries when we leave the EU! he declares. The man who exported, what was it, six hundred British jobs to Malaysia? He ought to know.

And I’m not sure who it was who told us we couldn’t trade with other countries AND remain a member of the EU? The obvious fact is, we do! It seems to me like another one of those many Europhobic lies we have been bombarded with for decades in the rightwing press, whose overmighty barons would like to increase their monopoly hold over UK media, but whose plots are continually foiled by inconvenient diktats emanating from Brussels – where, of course, Britain and British interests and the finest traditions of British democracy, like illegal rendition and torture, have not been represented for the past forty years since we blundered into the trap set for us by garlic-chewing bureaucrats.

Dyson has been curiously inconsistent with his theme over the years, depending, it seems, on the economic weather.

From his Wikipedia entry:

Claiming that the strength of the pound was affecting his company’s profits on exports to France and Germany, in February 2000 Dyson threatened to shift focus from his Malmesbury plant to a new plant set up in Malaysia because the government would not join the euro.  … “We do around £40 million worth of export business with France and Germany each year but we aren’t making any money. If we joined the euro we would be on an even footing with our biggest trading partners.”

In 2014, Dyson said he would now be voting to leave the European Union to avoid being “dominated and bullied by the Germans”.

Who is to say next year it might not be in Dyson’s interest to rejoin the Union? Which, of course, we shan’t be able to do. Who will trust our word ever again? And has it not occurred to him, or indeed anyone, that by leaving the EU, we shall be leaving the field clear for the total domination of Europe by, er, the dominating and bullying Germans? So is he going to stop trading with Europe now?

There is of course no suggestion that the famously mercurial and much-lauded entrepreneur disapproves of attempts by Brussels to reinforce its Europe-wide carbon-emissions targets by setting caps on the maximum power ratings of domestic appliances. Or that the thinking of British businessmen who like to ‘engineer’ the perfect conditions for their companies that enable them to buy chateaux in France and superyachts (his is only the 36th biggest in the world) can sometimes be somewhat ahistorical: narrowly focussed and short-term. Or, selfish, as we might say.

The question I have to ask is, why should we be dragged through the lengthy, costly, difficult and ultimately destructive process of parting company with the EU, just to keep one slightly deranged businessman happy that he’s making a shedload of money? In all of these declarations in favour of Brexit, it’s like opening the fridge door and thinking something at the back’s gone off: they reek of self-interest.

So, have all those honours gone to his head? As part of his praiseworthy attempts to promote engineering in schools, the Wiki informs us, the Dyson company has produced a teaching aid that can be loaned free of charge (for a month) to pupils at Key Stage 4:

The Education Box enables students to take apart and examine a Dyson DC22 Telescope vacuum cleaner. In addition, a school is allowed to retain a James Dyson Foundation teacher pack, and a copy of Genius Of Britain, a Channel 4 TV series featuring Dyson, and design engineering posters. Other resources are also available.

At my posh public-school, we had an old Riley car we could take to bits and examine. No-one ever tried to sell me one….

Expert opinion

Speaking of the euro, the currency our media tells us is continuously ‘in crisis’ hit a new high yesterday against the pound, of 1.262 (80 pence), on news in two polls of an unexpected surge in favour of Brexit, which almost everyone other than Sir James and Michael Gove thinks will be a disaster. Knowledgeably perusing some highly technical jargon, I understand 1.26 is somewhat outside the range that should trigger Central Bank intervention.

The financial website for exchange traders, poundsterling.com, predicts the Bank of England will have to raise interest rates against further economic uncertainty if the slide continues next week. They point out that while a lower pound favours exports to Europe (!) it will push up the price of imported goods, widening the already alarming trade gap; and the types of goods that we can export more profitably to the rest of the world because of the lower pound tend to be those that generally encounter existing trade barriers in non-EU countries.

Shall I say it, Brexit spokes, or will you?

All together now…

“Rubbish! What do they know, wankers? They’re only financial experts!”


With a gong in my heart

So, hail then, and arise, Sir Rod Stewart.

Happily, you are not among this year’s sad crop of dead 1970s celebrities, but have instead received the highest honour in the land; a knighthood in the Queen’s 90th birthday honours list. I expect you’ll be jetting in from your agreeable home in Los Angeles to receive it.

Strangely, only a few days ago while watching a late-night BBC compilation of your many TV concert appearances over the years (your career began in 1961, before colour revealed your strangely orange hair), when there wasn’t much on, I mused aloud to myself that you were one act about overdue for a top Brit rocker gong, up there with Sir Cliff and Sir Tom, Sir Elt, Sir Mick and Sir Macca.* I don’t appear to be the only prescient former editor on the scene, as flipping to your Wikipedia entry to find out more about you I find you are already listed there as Sir Roderick David Stewart, less than 24 hours after it was announced. Someone is clearly on the ball; and now booking a table has got easier.

I also discover that you have an enormous… er, model railway at your home, and have featured on the cover of Model Railroader magazine. We have a slightly more pejorative meaning of ‘railroad’ in UK English, but we get the drift, no need to assume you’ve been railroading models, haha. I always hankered after a model railway as a boy, and indeed still do;  only when I finally got one it was about two minutes before I became excessively bored watching the little train going round and round.

And of course your collection of Ferraris should have put you in contention for a presenter’s role on the new Top Gear, but alas. You’re better off out of it, mate, is my view after two haunting episodes.

As it happens, we hear that Her Majesty is more a fan of George Formby, the cheeky Lancastrian ukelele-strumming comic whose smutty songs and double-entendres were considered hilarious in the 1940s and 50s. Apparently she ‘knows all the lyrics’ to songs such as ‘My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock’, and ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’, and can do a great impression.

I was more impressed to learn that, years before Mandela, Formby and his missus toured South Africa. Horrified by what he found there, he refused to perform in front of all-white segregated audiences, and instead went off to play in the townships. Shame you can’t give posthumous knighthoods.

Still, ‘You wear it well.’

*Why don’t Lady Brit rockers ever get gongs too? Dame Annie Lennox, possibly next?**

**BTW, how many leading British authors ever get ennobled? ‘Sir Professor Doktor’ sounds good, nein? (Enough plugs. Ed. Even if you are the boss.)


Drafting Uncle Nigel

Right when we’re about to sever our links with Europe, it’s reported, Marvel comics are planning to revive Captain Britain. I’m sure there can be no connection. We shall, of course, be needing a superhero to save us from the perils of rougher international waters: criminal masterminds, property speculators, ultraviolent Russian football hooligans, the evil supremo Trumpster and his trusty sidekick,  Boris.

As Batman has his butler, so I thought Captain Britain could have a supportive older uncle; a rich man, he lives in a castle but hangs out in the village pub, enjoying a warm beer and complaining endlessly in an adopted Essex twang about foreigners, political correctness, foreigners, the smoking ban, foreigners and the untrustworthiness of European institutions. Maybe he morphs at night back into the body of a Cane Toad, which he more than slightly resembles.

I see this quintessentially English widemouth character as being a bit dodgy; always dressed in a camel-coloured Crombie coat with a velvet tab collar and a copy of Sporting Life in the pocket, he reminds us perhaps of ‘Arthur Daley’, the comical if ever-so slightly sinister secondhand rustbucket car-dealing hero and backstreet entrepreneur of the hit 1970s TV series, ‘Minder’. A cashiered ex-Army stores adjutant and sometime ‘commodities broker’ (he’ll do you a nice line in knockoff TVs), Uncle Nigel (we’ll call him) always has a couple of cases of imitation Bulgarian champagne in the boot of his 1968 Mark-11 Jaguar and the phone number of a cute bit of totty lipsticked on the front of the glovebox.

Every so often, he might mysteriously disappear across the Channel, only to re-surface days later with a briefcase bulging with Euros, which when questioned he puts down to: ‘Expenses, mate. Now piss off or I’ll call my solicitor!’ He is a popular guest on panel shows; indeed, his colourful antics and questionable assertions about modern life, delivered with bulging-eyed conviction, ensure he is seldom out of the limelight.

Just an idea. Perhaps a bit far-fetched.


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