Alec Finch: Open to persuasion on the EU referendum

Brexit dice

WBN members shared their views on Brexit – here Finch gives his opinion.

In 1979 Alec Finch was a co-founder of Worldwide Broker Network (WBN) which has now grown to 107 member firms in 101 countries generating aggregate brokerage and fees in excess of $5bn.

The origins of WBN are firmly in Europe and over the past 27 years the members, who meet three times annually, have formed close friendships and day to day working relationships.

It seemed appropriate therefore when considering the forthcoming referendum to seek comment form the WBN European membership and one of its founders.

The full analysis of their views is available here.

Consistent
For his part, Finch writes of the research: "Whilst the survey responses have been fairly consistent there are one or two points I have found particularly interesting.

One is the general lack of press coverage throughout mainland Europe and the other is the fear of contagion.

It seems that there is a belief that the UK will remain but serious concern about the consequences should Brexit happen.

It almost makes one wonder whether Boris Johnson's notion of a second referendum should the UK leave, against new concessions to head off further defections, may not be quite so far fetched as the Remain campaign insist.

Fence sitting
For myself, at the time of writing, with a month to go before the vote, I am still fence-sitting and want to be persuaded by one side or the other.

I have been disappointed by the respective campaigns so far. "Project Fear" does not appeal but the lack of cohesion amongst the often divisive "Out" campaign is blurring the message.

Of course no country has yet left the EU so all is speculation.

I am of a generation where I can clearly recall my grandfather and father talking about their experiences in the two World Wars.

Neither would have believed that Europe has been more or less free from armed conflict for 70 years and the EU and its predecessors can rightly take significant credit. However, the Out campaign will insist that NATO has had the greater influence.

Euro woes
When the Euro was introduced friends in Europe spoke about the logic of a single currency and recognised that whilst there would be some pain along the way it was a goal worth achieving.

There has certainly been some pain for those in the Eurozone , quite unevenly distributed but I still sense that the Eurozone members remain committed to the project's success.

It is significant that the UK chose to opt out of the single currency - a decision that has proved to be to our benefit - in the face of many of the arguments now being put by the Remain lobby.

The 'Outers' readily accept that a Brexit will have a negative impact on the UK economy; the debate is about how long and deep and the eventual landscape.

Forecasts from both sides are characteristically largely speculative.

The IMF on the one hand forecast bad to very, very bad yet the other side assure us that after a di cult short term situation the economy , released from the EU shackles, will prosper as never before.

Who knows?

Immigration
The immigration issue is likely to be key but the constant arguments about numbers are unhelpful in formulating a clear view.

Both sides are banging the immigration drum in the hope of influencing those voters who are unlikely to be influenced one way or the other by the economic arguments.

I have been impressed by Theresa May's stance on domestic security. Coming from a traditionally euro-sceptic position her concerns about the risks of a Brexit, supported by many leaders of our security services are quite compelling.

Once again, though, there are a number of security experts lined up on the other side.

Sovereignty is the issue where I feel the strongest emotional ‘pull' towards Brexit but, on balance, I feel more inclined to sit within the EU as an important member, taking a more robust stance with our partners, than being on the outside, an independent , dynamic country with possibly dwindling international influence in the generations to come.

Divided
Our survey is quite divided about the impact on the UK insurance industry.

There are fears about our ability to transact FOS [Freedom of Services] programmes in the event of a Brexit and a feeling that other cities will attempt to steal some of London's pre-eminence but also a view that the UK was a world centre for insurance pre-EU and will continue to be so whatever the outcome on June 23.

So, with a month to go, I am open to persuasion (along with most of the population I imagine)."

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