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CharlesAllen.jpgCharles Allen on why a vote to leave the EU spells trouble for UK businesses and consumers

Who has not been moved over the past few days by the tributes to the extraordinary and inspiring Jo Cox.  A rising star that was already shining so brightly in Parliament and whose talents, energy and humanity will be so dearly missed not just in Westminster or Batley and Spen but throughout our nation. I have also been moved by the dignity of her husband, Brendan – whose grief and that of her two young children we cannot begin to imagine – in dealing with this tragedy.

Only the day before Jo’s murder, her family had waved to her from a dinghy as they set off up the Thames to protest against Nigel Farage’s UKIP ‘flotilla’. As I watched the latter on the choppy waters, I thought of the turbulence the country would endure if the result of the EU referendum is a vote to leave. Those on the Brexit boats believe they are sailing to Utopia but I fear the real destination will be an economic version of the Bermuda Triangle – except the destructive forces will not be supernatural but self-inflicted.

The fear of the unknown will have immediate consequences. Many consumers currently with money to spare are likely to reduce their spending considerably, thinking twice about buying a new car or building a home extension. Those meanwhile, who had planned to borrow will hold off, worried about higher interest rates or job security.

Businesses, like consumers, are likely to put off investment decisions. Some may even try to offload assets, until they had more certainty of future trading conditions. Responding to lower orders and sales from the domestic market, they may also – reluctantly – cut their workforce. This would lead to a reduction in GDP and increased unemployment.

The strength of the pound would weaken as the financial markets react to uncertainty – perhaps helping UK exports in the short-term only to be dwarfed by trade tariffs in the long run. At the same time, our weak currency would make imports, even the much discussed German cars and French wine and cheeses, more expensive to the British consumer while pushing up inflation rates.

We know too that many foreign banks, fearing that London will lose its passporting rights to the EU and the Eurozone, will quickly and considerably reduce their footprint in the UK. They will move operations, initially to existing offices, elsewhere in Europe.  Leading to job losses in banking, insurance, accounting and other financial services and reducing our surplus in service. As all of these factors begin increasingly to take effect on our economy, pressure will be placed on government ministers to cut a deal with the EU. With a weaker negotiating position overall, a bleaker outlook is certain.

So as the Brexiteers sail towards their Utopia, it is the British people who will suffer from greater unemployment and higher interest rates and inflation than we have now, lower GDP and investment, and a weaker pound. And all the indications are that things can only get worse. A deeply divided Conservative government fighting within itself, sending battle fatigued ministers to deal with a hardened attitude from EU leaders who will feel concessions already made to the UK have been thrown in their faces. Choppy waters for us all.

Lord Charles Allen of Kensington is a businessman, broadcaster and Labour Peer in the House of Lords

Published 21st June 2016

Choppy waters ahead?

Charles Allen on why a vote to leave the EU spells trouble for UK businesses and consumers

House of Lords, 20th June 2016

For twenty years, I knew and cherished Jo Cox as a friend and as a young woman of personal and political vivaciousness.

In life she was brilliant in all respects.  Her death was appalling in its ugly brutality and dreadful injustice.

As I reeled with the horrified shock of hearing what had happened to Jo, I confess that I felt misery mixed with hatred.  Hatred for whoever had terrified and killed her.  Hatred for the times and conditions which had made someone feel that they were justified in being brutally extreme.

And then I realised that my outrage was useless.  Not for the first time, I recognised that hate cannot be beaten with hatred.  Jo Cox would have said “Do not hate in my name”. She might even have quoted Ghandi: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.

Then, she would have offered a brave, rational response to the malicious incoherence of an environment in which a minority of people think they can write and speak and do violence to anyone if they have an excuse of enthusiasm, offence, of partisanship, or even a warped form of patriotism.

Jo’s response would not have lacked passion. She was pragmatic in order to get things done, but never cold nor clinical. This spirited woman would have centred on realism and been driven by rationality. She would have pursued the cause of the rage and then put bold ideas into action to counter it.

We know that because that's what she always did when confronted by inhumanity, or bigotry, or injustice, or simply the needs of her constituents.

Now, we who are part of the reasonable majority must employ truth against divisive fiction and distortion, reality against prejudice, hard-headed common-sense against delusion.

We have to combat hatred in its public lethal forms, in the bilious preaching of demagogues, in the sly dog-whistles of populists, and when it oozes as cowardly, anonymous social media secretion.

Impressionable, maladjusted individuals may claim that their responsibility is diminished. Politicians and newspapers with voices that shape views may not.

We have to fight hatred that is incited and nourished by those whose purposes are served by fostering fear – fear of change, fear of insecurity, fear of foreigners.

This our duty – not simply to ourselves, but to our democracy and the British people’s sense of decency. We cannot allow venom to displace mutual respect.  We cannot permit intolerance to intimidate tolerance. We cannot accept that a convention of hating can ever be allowed to prevail over the greatest, strongest, most civilised British quality of “live and let live”.

History teaches too many lessons that, if temperate rationality concedes ground, the space is invaded by intemperate irrationality – always with horrific results. 

That is why we, and all who recoil from the politics of hate, must never make the concession. We must never stop confronting those who seek political profit from encouraging the neuroses of threat and resentment. 

Young Jo Cox did not concede. That is why her short life was so productive, so radiant. It deserves to be unforgotten because it was unforgettable. 

Neil Kinnock tribute to Jo Cox

House of Lords, 20th June 2016

House of Lords, 20th June 2016

Jo Cox was proud to be a member of the Labour family and that family is proud of her.

There are some people in families as well as in political parties that you try to dodge but Jo was someone who improved your day.

She was a passionate believer in the power of good and many dark corners of the world have lost a passionate human rights defender.

But so many people have lost a woman who was a joy and inspiration to work with - people we have worked with for nearly two decades.

Here in Parliament – in our own Parliamentary Labour Party offices, in Party Headquarters and in party offices up and down the country

And even before she became an MP – her many friends in former Leader’s offices – Tony Blair’s, Ed Miliband’s

As well as my friends and former colleagues in Gordon Brown’s office valued her insight and compassion not least in the work she did with Sarah Brown on women’s health.

They are all part of this tribute to Jo who loved life, her country, her world and most of all her family

I met Brendan when he was a labour student and over this awful time he has shown himself to be brave and strong.

We mourn their loss, but he and her family should know that all of us are absolutely and resolutely united and determined to counter the hate that killed Jo and prove that hope does beat hate.

Sue Nye tribute to Jo Cox

House of Lords, 20th June 2016

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