Dr Lee Rotherham: Change, or go dispels the pernicious
myth that no work has been done on Brexit
Dr Lee Rotherham was an
adviser to three Shadow Foreign Secretaries, and the Conservative
parliamentary delegate to the Convention on the Future of Europe. He was
also part of the team that produced the seminal Business for Britain
publication, Change, or go (20MB)
Several myths have been taking form around the EU referendum debate
already. Letís here attempt to dispel one of them and stabilise shares
in tin foil headgear. Itís about whether anyone has done any work on
Brexit or not.
If my antediluvian phone could take a photo, Iíd take one of my office.
Despite spending a week in July binning stacks of surplus material, its
shelves remain rammed full of Eurosceptic literature dating back twenty
years. Thereís the London Mayorís Report from 2014; a slightly tatty
print out of one of the earlier Flexcits; a copy of Bill Cashís
Associated, Not Absorbed; stacks from the European Journal, Sprout, and
These Tides; a rainbow pile of assorted output from the Bruges Group;
and book after paper after essay after tome after volume covering every
subject subsequently mentioned by any journalist since the word
referendum first crossed the lips of Mr Cameron.
But letís just focus on one, as I propose it will be of particular
service to Whitehall planners.
Change, or go (20MB) was the offspring of a gigantic collaboration. At
its heart were four people. Matthew Elliott, the Mazarin of Brexit prep,
was the editor-in-chief. There were two core drafters other than myself;
Oliver Lewis, later to become the chief engineer of the crucial Newcomen
engine of research within Vote Leave; and William Norton, whose role in
now winning three important referendums remains shamefully
unacknowledged (he deserves Will Strawís chocolate gong for services to
English paradigms of patience alone).
To these were added further research supplied by an economic
consultancy, technical support by heroic elves, and direct input from a
range very senior subject matter experts and top business leaders. The
whole was then polished off by an editorial board swiped from Rivendell,
from which an intense attention to presentational effectiveness by Jon
Moynihan was particularly felt.
The result, published by Business for Britain in June 2015, was a
document that looks like a cross between a telephone directory and the
sort of thing you would cut a hole in to smuggle a Ď44 into Sing Sing.
But itís not just the size of the beast, but the breadth and depth of
the research inside it. It included (thanks to William Norton) the first
line-by-line analysis of what defaulting to WTO tariffs would actually
mean both for exports and for imports, adding for good measure the
impact if all the EUís third party trade deals were included. It first
began the business of challenging what might be done with this revenue
if tariffs emerged (one suspects this might have been a feature of the
recent Toyota talks). It set out the process for when to trigger Article
50, and the models and options that might follow depending on the nature
of cooperation. It ranged across the default treaties and agreements
that would be in play if existing EU agreements were simply not
reinstated. It considered what barriers might be at issue for
negotiators to tackle. It did lots of things. Itís also a helpfully
chunky book end.
Its practical value has not, however, diminished since being serialised
for a week on the front pages of the Daily Telegraph last year. The base
premise was indeed one of starting from David Cameron renegotiating a
new treaty; but as well as looking at what any truly radical, looser
structure might look like, crucially it explored what would the worst
case scenario mean. This default was chosen not as an ideal, but as the
The good news is that while we would not be talking about plain sailing
by any means, even the default scenario (barring a total trade war with
the continent, which even Boris Johnson didnít manage over prosecco)
works out as a strategic improvement on where we have been at. The world
has globalised, the sun is shining, but tucked away under the EU
umbrella we havenít noticed. So additionally, it explores several
options that negotiators now have before them as they select what should
go into making a ďBritish OptionĒ.
There are always, with any research, going to be areas worthy of deeper
study and fresh appraisal. But it deserves to be kept in the public
domain, so to dispel the pernicious myth that no work has been done and
Eurosceptics are dunderheads and blaggards, Change, or go (20MB) is
again available online for policy makers to reflect on, and to assist in
some measure with the planning of everyone considering the impact of
Brexit on their businesses and activity.
It doesnít have all the answers, but it does at least draw attention to
most of the key questions. And if you print it out, once youíve pondered
over the bits of it that seem relevant, it makes for one rather handy
Change or Go pdf file here