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The view from Davos: Cameron’s mad to talk about leaving the EU

25 January 2013

‘Cameron’s speech on Europe is badly timed; we must stop this endless European bickering when facing such huge worldwide political challenges’.  That’s the view of Neil Selby, the London-based Director of Executive Education for the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business but who at the moment is, like me, here in Davos. ‘Let’s think instead of the links we can make with East Asia’, he tells me.

It’s very disconcerting: while in Britain most columnists and commentators seem to be congratulating Cameron on his big Europe speech, here at Davos there’s no enthusiasm. Most of the people around me think the emphasis was all wrong.

At a lunch on East vs. West; Re-Shaping the World, hosted by Clifford Chance, Stephen King, the Group Chief Economist at HSBC, insisted we should look beyond Europe. Britain needs to focus on Asia and Latin America, he told me: ‘We have become even more integrated with the rest of Europe than Germany, France or Italy; they’ve traded further afield.’ And, he added, more controversially, ‘we need a pro-immigration policy because the more those from China and India connect with the UK the more chance they will trade with us when they go back home. The vast majority wanting to come to Britain will be those with an entrepreneurial spirit. UK business should be out in Asia continuously, making those personal connections.’

I found bewilderment here that Britain just didn’t realise what a good thing it had got going in Europe. I talked to Danny Sriskandarajah, just off to Johannesburg as Secretary General of Civicus – a sort of global body for the promotion of civil society.  As an immigrant to Britain he was amazed at how successful the European project had been – 50 years of peace and a model for the rest of the world, liberalising trade and encouraging freedom of movement. And yet here was the Prime Minister signalling a drawing back. ‘If everyone starts approaching multilateral deals without a spirit of co-operation, then just like a marriage, it won’t work. What Cameron is saying will hurt Britain by showing it may be on the way out. We have the best deal possible: let’s stick with it rather than draw back.’

There’s a feeling here that we’re mad even to admit the possibility of being once again a small island nation on our own in a world of economic giants. Dawood Azami  is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader who lectures at the University of Westminster in London on international governance. Not surprisingly perhaps, he too says the future belongs to the big players – the US, China, India and Russia. If Europe wants to have a significant global role in the future it needs integration, both political and economic. It’s precisely the opposite of what Cameron says his vision of Europe is, and what he wants Britain to work for.

As far as I could tell only the Brits here at Davos felt Cameron was in with a real chance of persuading the rest of Europe to see things his way.

David Jones, CEO of Havas, the only British CEO of a French publicly-listed company, and former Cameron adviser, thought that the Prime Minister’s speech had come at the right moment: ‘It gives us clarity around a subject that has been widely debated and speculated about – we now know the road map and the timing;’ and, Jones said, Cameron’s announcement ‘set out to deliver some leadership in Europe, something that has been sorely lacking; he didn’t just ask for a better deal for Britain, but a better deal for all members.’

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Show comments
  • disqus_9XkyFTEeDU

    when you are in Davos during the next WEF, you can look on to find a nice restaurant.

  • global city

    Most of the people who attend Davos are politicians, academics or corporate heads, just the sort of herd thinkers who feel safe and think in ‘big institution’ ways. They are not entrepreneurs and seldom understand who the intricasies of business and trade happens. They all seem to think that governments arrange it.
    For those not from Europe you also find that they mostly don’t understand what the EU is. They still seem to think of it as a free trade area with some politics at the margins.
    Most importanly, they are told it is in their interest and accept it and repeat it.

  • GenJackRipper

    There is this other island nation that seems to be doing fine without being part of a utterly un-democratic union, having mass-immigration or being told what to do.

    They’re called Japan and they’re the worlds third biggest economy.

    WHY can Japan be free, independent and prosperous, but not Britain?

    • Noa

      The have had the great good fortune to have had an active mainland enemy to concentrate their minds for over seventy years.

  • Augustus

    “And this must be the start of something…
    This could be the heart of something…
    This could be the start of something big.”
    Smaller and medium-sized companies are the real engine of economic growth. They can spring up rapidly to cater for new industries; or adapt to take advantage of a niche in an existing industry. Energy efficiency, meeting the housing needs, technology and engineering are areas in which smaller firms thrive. The internet has created a shop window to the world. Customers can view products whether located in Britain or Brazil. More efficient distribution and transport networks mean that products can be shipped worldwide. UK companies can benefit from increasing factory automation in emerging markets. Their fate is certainly not tied to either the domestic economy, or an integrated

  • Dominic Adler

    Who really cares what the supranational business uber-class think? I don’t. And am I the only person who finds it deeply ironic that they meet, of all places, in Switzerland?

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    Other countries and foreign businessmen are really not bothered by issues such as Sovereignty and Democracy.
    The British people are – because it is their country that has been hi-jacked and taken over by an unelected, unaccountable foreign elite.
    This isn’t about trade. It’s about self-determination.

  • Interloper

    The article is quite right. I have spent a long time working in the largest EU companies. The concept of European solidarity is completely embedded in central Europe. They will look at all this as a crazy joke from Monty Python and completely ignore it.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Which is why we don’t belong there.

  • FrankS

    The assorted sages at Davos are right in doubting that Cameron could persuade the rest of “Europe” (I think she means the EU) to see things his way.

    He has no obvious means of getting them round a negotiating table, unless he invokes article 50 of the Lisbon travesty.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Well, they might continue to want his money. Which is our money.

  • Daniel Maris

    One other point: just remember, all those Davos people who use to turn up 10 years ago are now execrated as bubble merchants, fraudsters, and politicians who drove their countries’ economies off the cliff. There’s no reason to suppose their quality has improved markedly.

    We shouldn’t be hypnotised by Davos, we should focus on the real economy.

    • 2trueblue

      Too true, they are hardly like a good wine, which has got the potential to become great, and leave a lovely taste on the palate.

  • ArchiePonsonby

    So why can’t we get out of the EU AND forge links with other countries? I don’t understand what’s so difficult. Journo gibberish, increasingly as usual, hereabouts!

  • paulus

    It just goes to show what a bunch of limited idiots run the world, so limited, it will be like taking sweets of a child. Once we start we will steam roll them all,they are contemptible

  • 700islands

    This idea, always fashionable with those who head up “forums”, that you have to be big to survive is not born out by the evidence. History is full of large powers that did not last. The present is full of small nations that have done well. The U.S.S.R. was huge and always struggled, was always poor and often starving. Small Singapore does rather nicely. Often large constructs fail because they stifle innovation, competition and freedom by at best being over-regulated and harmonized the way the EU is now, or, at worst by trending toward dictatorship. Small places often encorage just the opposite.

    The Europhiles are convinced we are hauling up the drawbridge, retreating, going out “into the desert”, choosing “isolation”. This is a blinkered view. It shows up in bright lights the fact that they cannot see any way but their own.

    There are Little Englanders, but they are not the force that is driving the Eurosceptic movement in the UK. On the contrary the British people feel that they are slowly being entrapped into an inwardly looking, over regulated, uncompetitive “market” that is building a wall of protectionism between itself and a growing world while it relaxes into the decadence of past wealth and future debt. Yes, we want to trade with Europe, its a very large, important place. But we do not want to be shut up in the European fortress cut off from the sea, our voice always in the minority. We want the freedom of the world.

    The real fear, the real “unknowns”, the true “uncertainty” hangs over Europe itself. Really, what is going to happen when the political elite impose a new state upon disparate peoples when there is no democratic mandate for the existence of that state? How long can such a union last? A generation? Two? Or, since they lack the democratic legitimacy will they fail to take the steps needed to build that fiscal union and so fail to carry out the reforms needed to underpin the Euro? What do the “forum” leaders have to say about this? Anything?

    We need to maintain a strange posture on the EU, we must keep them close enough to keep their markets open to our trade and influence them just enough to prevent “The Darkness” from returning to power as it too often does in Europe, while at the same time maintaining enough distance to avoid the smashing china when the whole thing goes wonkies, which, history being any guide, it inevitably will.

    And the best of British luck…

  • 2trueblue

    The population of the UK is 65,000,000 or there abouts. We have 78 MEPs, whilst 15 countries whose combined population is the same, have 130+ MEPs so we will always be outvoted in the EU. There are 17 countries who are on the receiving end of our contributions. I would like Cameron to carry on talking, on our behalf.

    • HooksLaw

      You might have a point if the MEPs had any point influence or meaning. The existence of MEPs are an example of what is useless and wrong with the ‘EU’

  • alabenn

    Why has this woman whose only claim to economic genius is she manage to sell a talking shop to another talking shop that does polls that say what the man with the money wants it to say, her previous job was to oversee the degrading of a once respected radio talk show.
    Her whole life has been about talking, nothing she has ever done comes across as having any substance and nothing she has to say in this spiel has improved on her previous standards.
    Even when she quotes someone else,”50 years of peace and a model for the rest of the world” she is still spouting mindless drivel.
    She is the epitome of the culture in this country, who you know counts more than what.

  • Reconstruct

    I have a message for Neil Selby, with regard to his comment: ‘Let’s think instead of the links we can make with East Asia’. The message is not from me, but from Ding Chun, director of the European Research Centre at Fudan University, Shanghai. Here’s what he said about the issue: ‘Without trade regulations and the single market of the EU, Britain will be more open to China’s huge market.’

    Got that, Neil?

    • HooksLaw

      Jaguar Land Rover are building a car plant in China so that notion looks a bit thin to me.

      • Colonel Mustard

        One swallow doesn’t make a summer…

  • In2minds

    “The view from Davos: Cameron’s mad to talk about leaving the EU”

    While the view from the whole of Switzerland is it would be mad to join the
    EU. The woman Stone is mad too.

    • HooksLaw

      Switzerland is in effect in the EU

      • Swiss Bob

        Yes, but the people can tell them to FO any time they like.

  • Barbara Stevens

    I think the British people have come to the decsion they will make up their own minds on Europe; the more they dicate the more they feel inclined to leave. Now we see they intend fining us for not implicating energy policies. £240.000 per day. How can any country pay these fines when they are strugging. Cameron is right, they do need to get their hands round the coffee cups and wake up. May I suggest we just ignore them.

    I’m sick of all of the other members telling us how well off we are, while we are told what we can and what we cannot do. I want freedom to choose, freedom to trade where WE want, and not have to ask permission.

    I don’t want the EU, standing in for my country when foreign policy is discussed, we have a Foreign Secretary for that with our own embassies. Baroness Ashton, does not speak for me, never!.

    In other words the whole system is not democracy, its nothing more than an imposed dictatorship which we have not given our consent. We voted for a trade area, with fairness for all nations. It time we left, and Cameron can talk about the wonders of this expensive club, but in the end its WE who will decide not him.

    • ArchiePonsonby

      Well said,that lady!

  • SmithersJones2013

    The trouble is these arrogant globalists don’t give a toss about the UK they only give a toss about their own bottom line.

    After all none of them saw the economic crisis coming now did they? Thats why we are bailing out so many of their colleagues. Screw them!

  • Fergus Pickering

    Do explain to me who this woman is. I’ve never heard of her. Should I have?

    • Rhoda Klapp2

      Journalist. Been around a while. Clueless but gets to go to Davos. Need any more?

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …yes, any way we can coordinate her Davos schedule with a dirty bomb event?

  • Russell

    Cameron is definitely mad to talk about leaving the EU, he should not bother with a referendum and just put forward a Bill taking us out of the EU.

    Van Rumpey Pumpey apparently had discussions with ‘commissioners’ to ignore UK objections to a budget freeze and find a way to get round a major net contributor to EU funding being able to use its veto!

    • HooksLaw

      Apparently? Commissioners in speech marks – just what do you mean – why not spell it out??
      ‘rumpey pumpey’? makes you feel better does that – enhances your argument does it?

      Just what do you mean by ‘leaving’??

  • foxoles

    It is getting rather tiresome, this immediate response that you are ‘mad’ if you disagree with someone.

    You are ‘mad’ if you object to the erosion of national sovereignty. You are ‘mad’ if you don’t accept mankind is warming the climate. You are ‘mad’ if you even contemplate not giving your vote to either of the two main parties.

    Can we not move beyond this one insult?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Surely you must be mad.

      • foxoles

        Mad? I’m absolutely livid!


      • ArchiePonsonby

        Obviously not best pleased!

  • Hugh

    I’m not entirely sure how worried we should be by the fact that the head of a charity, a university lecturer, and a director of a graduate school disagree.

  • chan chan

    There’s only been 50 years of peace because the Americans paid for it. And there will be war again before the middle if this century after they stop – and they will.

    • Swiss Bob

      You won’t find it in the MSM but the Chinese Govt has just told its army to prepare for war.

      I’m glad I’ve got a bomb shelter.

  • disqus_MMfdYeKj9P

    I’d rather live in a relatively minor trading nation, free to make its
    own decisions be they right or wrong than in a large economic bloc where
    the people have no say. The UK’s relationship with the EU shouldn’t
    solely be about economy. Doesn’t democracy and sovereignty come into it?

    • LB

      And yet, in the UK, you won’t get a say either, You might vote lib dems, because you want no tuition fees. However, you’ve been lied too.

      You might vote Tory, because they promised a referenda. But they changed the name of the package, and you didn’t get a vote.

      Democaracy in the UK, is you doing what you are told to do, and not question your masters and betters, Left wing parties, right wing parties, or just plain stupid.

      • HooksLaw

        There was no promise of a referendum (or even more than one referenda) in their 2010 manifesto.
        So you peddle rubbish.
        We have democracy in the UK and its no different a kind of democracy thsn its ever been.

        What we actually have is a conservative PM saying he will negotiate a new deal fore us in the EU and put the results tom a referendum. But you see fit to ignore that.
        You live in a mad insane world of your own.

    • George_Arseborne

      Gone were those day of British Empire!!!!!!!. Cameron thought he could cover his economic failure by stepping up the debate of EU membership. He failed colossally . We are now getting into triple dip recession Families are thinking more of their living standard rather than the stupid EU referendum promise.

      • Fergus Pickering

        Doubtless very poor people are thinking about being poor. But that isn’t most people and it isn’t you, Arseborne. In what way is his promise stupid?

      • Colonel Mustard

        Are you Mohamed Al Fayad? Something about the way you construct those sentences and the exclamation marks…

    • scaz

      free what are you on, you have no say never had, 50 years of peace and a single market, that we have been woefully inadequate of taking advantage.Sovereignty, democracy don’t come in to it,getting the economy is working means we wont be living of someone else’s hard earned money

  • Swiss Bob

    Finally found the quote I was looking for:

    “What you need now is clarity,” Kenny said, adding that Ireland had held referendums on several European issues in the past 40 years, with a “positive” response every time.

    How do you tell an honest politician. It’s easy, there’s no such thing.

  • LB

    But Berlin remains highly sceptical of the Tories’ tactics and is likely to fight hard against any attempt by Cameron to give Britain a major competitive advantage in the single market.

    Think it through. If the UK gets a advantage by getting out of parts of EU legislation, that legislation is making the EU uncompetitive. We live in a world bigger than the EU, and here’s the admission that the EU is causing damage.

    Merkel has it wrong. They should be looking at giving all EU countries an advantage, rather than causing damage.

    So perhaps Carole Stone likes a bit of a whipping in private. So why force that on the rest of us?

    • HooksLaw

      The government are saying that they want all the EU to have the same ‘advantages’. The government (well the Tories) are saying they want the EU to reform.

      The EU are going to bring in a closer fiscal union treaty for Euro members (assuming they agree) – we are not in the Euro and do not want to be associated with this anyway, so a new relationship with the EU is inevitable.

  • John Millington

    Ah, the irony of a pseudo-neoliberal discussion forum that seeks to bring key market players to a debate with the underlying aim of reaching consensus. Tell me again what central planning is?

  • Bluesman

    How dare the “little people” be allowed a view.

  • UlyssesReturns

    I am getting increasingly fed up with the argument about Britain’s role in Europe being solely about business and jobs. The simple fact is that Europe is anti-business unless you are a big multinational, or a French or German company that wants to keep out competition. I am expanding my company’s operations in Switzerland, the Middle East and Asia. Nothing would persuade me to open an office in Paris, Frankfurt, Madrid or Rome. Employment regulations and red-tape in the UK will mean I limit expansion here while pushing resources to Dubai and Singapore unless things change drastically. Britain’s place in Europe must not be left to business and the politicians who want to be the VIP lounge of the EU club – it can only be decided by the people and by an in-out vote. I am not a Cameron fan but on this I will trust him to deliver his promise, and on this I will vote for the Conservatives to give us, either a reformed relationship with the EU, or a chance to exit as a sovereign nation.

    • Barbara Stevens

      Well said.

    • 2trueblue

      Their loss, well put.

    • HooksLaw

      Dubai – that well know beacon of democracy.
      Interestingly, given your eagerness to work in Dubai and the utter antagonism of the usual suspects to immigration from the EU, we find that…
      ‘Migrants, particularly migrant workers, make up a majority (approximately 80%) of the resident population of the UAE, and account for 90% of its workforce. They lack rights associated with citizenship and face a variety of restrictions on their rights as workers’

      On this and other matters do you want to see the EU and the UK reduced to the levels of democracy found in Dubai and Singapore?

      • Colonel Mustard

        Academic. Dubai and Singapore are quite different but where they share a commonality it is as well organised business friendly cities with a strong character of acquiesced authoritarianism and good order. Britain under New Labour and now the Conintern has managed to impose a kind of mildly resented and often ill-founded authoritarianism but without being particularly business friendly, mainly courtesy of the EU, and without the good order, as thugs hold sway – in the housing estates as well as the corridors of power.

      • John McClane

        I suspect that, whatever else they do in Dubai & Singapore, they don’t allow migrant workers to bring with them multiple wives, children, aunts, uncles and so on. They probably only let them in if there’s work for them and when the work’s done they send them home again. Unlike here.

    • dalai guevara

      Fantastic line of argumentation Ulysses – Europe should not be just about business, but democracy – and when it comes to you, you will relocate to one-party states instead of where our future King came from/where he designs the Mouton wine labels. Hahaha, you are a cracker.

      You just sound like Eddie, claiming not to be racist, only then to pass judgement on the basis of…race. Are you two brothers separated at birth?

      • Colonel Mustard

        And you must have read a different comment!

        • dalai guevara

          Have I?
          So you cannot do business in Europe?
          What is he making? High tech medical equipent (of course you can)?
          or just Primark women’s underwear?

          Give me a break, please – this is serious brainwash. Of course you can run businesses in Europe – perhaps just not to the profit margins a British rent seeker would expect to extract for his own gain. And you might have to be just that bit better organised…

    • global city

      You should write that in a letter to David Cameron. The talk of the EU like it is a dynamic success and it’s market of 500m, etc, is deluded rubbish. So much protectionism, statism and quasi-trotskyism means it is useless as a trading bloc, except in some theoretical treatise.
      Why is this notion of the EU as powerful and effective not dismantled by sceptics on TV etc?
      Of course, as so many have said on here, the fundamental political issue is completely ignored, as are all those odd French terms that have deep and terrible meanings.

  • Adrian Drummond

    They are bonkers.

    • LB

      Democracy is you doing as you are told.

      • 2trueblue

        Glad you worked that one out for us. None of them seem to think that the general public matter, what an arrogant bunch they all are.

  • Tom Tom

    Is this Carole Stone ‘London’s networking queen’. writing this ? It is so good to know that Davos is now able to tell British Subjects how they fit into the New World Order. A business school funded by Li Ka-Shing the owner of British gas mains in Northern England is clearly the fount of all wisdom. It is so good that Carole Stone can bring her BBC experience to tell The Great Unwashed that the Oligarchs think they are fine in the New Serfdom and should relish Rich Men in Davos telling them how well off they are.

    Do any of these people in Davos ever wonder how they will fare when the world explodes and gallows await them ?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      I still advocate for a dirty bomb lit off upwind of Davos this week.

      I mean, apologies to all the Davos locals, but it’s for a better cause.

    • dalai guevara

      Li Ka-Ching, surely…

    • ArchiePonsonby

      I think that you mean Li cashing-in?

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