Andrew Lampert

Brexit 

An interview with Andrew Lampert

by Kay Hare

In light of the recent news and reviews of Brexit and living in the South of France I wanted to interview an expat who has a good understanding of the British political landscape and who can shed some more light on the subject. 

I met Andrew on the 12th July 2018 in Monaco at the restaurant Quai des Artistes, where I am also showing a selection of oil paintings. Over a two course lunch, with the sun shining and a back drop of the port we discussed Lampert’s views on Brexit. 

Andrew is from London and has enjoyed a successful career as a stockbroker in the City and in Guernsey, Channel Islands, having graduated in Aeronautical Engineering at Southampton University. When his company was acquired he bought an apartment in 2002 on THE WORLD and with 100 families sailed the 7 Seas for 9 years. 

Currently Andrew lives and works from his home in Monaco. He continues to be an investor and sits as a non- executive Director on a number of investment companies, is on the advisory boards of a number of property companies and is on the committees of the Monte-Carlo Club and the Air league of Monaco. He is also a member of the Yacht Club de Monaco and the Automobile Club de Monaco.

You seem quite passionate about British politics. Have you ever wanted to get more involved in politics or become a politician? 

I have always been interested in U.K. politics, am an avid watcher of the BBC Daily Politics, Question Time and Prime Ministers Questions and read the political and business sections of the press. My particular interest is the relationship between how politics affects business.

My ambition was to be financially successful and being a stockbroker gave me that opportunity. However, you have to understand how the government of the day, be it more left or right, affects the outlook for business, makes the rules and therefore the outlook for the stock market. In my lifetime I have watched how the EU has imposed more and more regulations on business making the EU more uncompetitive relative to Asia.

Being a politician can be a rewarding career but you don’t choose it to make money!

Why do you think the government embraced Brexit to start with?

I am not sure the government ever really embraced Brexit. Nigel Farage and UKIP caught the mood of the country as the huge uncontrolled immigration changed the face of Britain. The resulting cheap labour was good for companies but bad for the working classes whose wages were depressed. Of course, these new arrivals also wanted houses, schools, healthcare which caused resentment. David Cameron was forced to call the referendum not expecting to lose but on 23rd June 2016 Brexit happened and shook the Establishment.

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From a personal perspective, why does Brexit interest you? 

My father was Polish, was born in Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway, and fought with the Allies in WWII against the tyranny of Nazi Germany. My mother was English and my uncle died as one of the Channel Dash heroes in 1942 defending Britain. After the war the Poles were not keen to return to their country which was in the Russian zone and so he emigrated to South Africa. I was born in Cape Town but came to London in 1961 but it still took me 7 years to get a British passport. My father, like all Poles were devastated that they had lost their country and was always confident that the U.K. would always be free and independent. So he never spoke Polish in front of my brother and I as he wanted us to have just one loyalty, and that was to Britain. Sadly, he died before the collapse of Communism so never saw an independent Poland. 

Of course, all of Europe was economically devastated by the war and the Marshall Plan helped rebuild. However, the U.K. paid back all the loans to America but the debts to the Continental countries got written off! This allowed them to build the infrastructure post war and the lower defence spending by Germany and others has been an added benefit to their growth.

In the 1960’s strike torn Britain was referred to as the “sick man of Europe” and it wasn’t until Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979 that the tide was turned and our country became great again. 

We joined the EEC (European Economic Community) in 1973 and in a referendum in 1975 voted “YES” by 67.2% to 32.8% to stay in Europe. The British public were happy to be in a trade federation but were mostly unaware that the direction of travel was integration. The Treaty on European Union TFEU (the Treaty of Rome) was signed on 7th February 1992 in Maastricht, Netherlands. This was when it became clear that the EU project was to become a superstate with countries giving up their sovereignty. The Euro was adopted as the official currency on 1st January 1999. This has been a great help for Germany and the strong economies at the expense of the weaker countries. Thankfully we never joined which enabled us to devalue the Sterling to remain competitive and consequently were less affected by the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

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Could Brexit affect you directly?

Of course, living in Monaco and being retired, I don’t think that Brexit will affect me directly. 

Have we lost a lot of time and money with the Brexit campaign or is it something positive that we can learn from? 

The referendum was necessary and there was misleading information promoted by both sides. The campaign rigorously examined all the issues in debates, radio call in shows and the press. The issues included the fears of continued uncontrolled immigration, the unwillingness of the unelected EU to listen to the concerns of the member states, the huge cost of being part of the EU, and effectively the loss of control or sovereignty.

Do you think this will raise new issues with Northern Ireland territories? 

Theresa May, frightened by her arch-Remain advisors, has allowed the Irish border lies to warp her entire Brexit strategy.

The EU has made much of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The UK is not going to have a hard border. If the EU is in favour of this, it is their problem! Both the heads of UK customs and Irish customs said they could operate without 300 land customs posts. Most of the trade is internal. There are only 6 ports which means surveillance on goods from the rest of the world into Northern Ireland is comparatively easy.

What is delaying the British Government from now drawing a straight line through this and walking away with no strings attached and start afresh? 

Time is running out for that option. 

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My firm belief was that after the referendum we should have elected a Brexiteer Prime Minister. Then we should have made it clear from the start that we are preparing for a new future with the rest of the world and would move to World Trade Organization (WTO) tariffs on 29th March 2019. Companies would have time to make preparations for a no deal. If the EU wanted a trade deal they should come to us! As time ticked on the pressure would have built up on all the Continental companies who in aggregate sell Britain £92 billion more than we sell them. The WTO tariffs will cost us on average 3-4% more but will cost them much more. More importantly, Sterling has devalued by more than 3-4% so we are already better off than the EU who are all locked into the Euro and at a competitive disadvantage to the U.K. and the rest of the world.

What in your view, is holding the process up?

The EU can see that the U.K. is divided with a weak Prime Minister and cabinet who keep on offering concessions urged on by the remoaners and remainiacs who lost the referendum. The EU want our money and want us in the customs union so we can’t do bilateral deals with the rest of the world. 

Why is the EU so keen to keep us in the Customs Union?

For 60 years the EU has tried to do trade deals with the U.S. and China and help German and French but not British business. The customs union harms the poorest countries as the EU stops their exports of agricultural goods. In 1973 when Britain joined the EEC the European bloc comprised 30% of the world economy. With the growth of Asia, the EU (after Brexit) is now just 15% of world GNP and is forecast to fall to just 10% in 2050! Why should Britain’s competitive economy stay behind a tariff wall discriminating against 85% of the world economy? 

How does the rest of the World trade with the EU?

The EU (and its Remain supporters) are trying to frighten the U.K. by implying that if we don’t do a trade deal our economy will fall off a cliff! What about their economy?

Ask yourself, how do China, India, the U.S. and every other country in the World trade with the EU? Do they pay a fee for access? NO! They trade under WTO rules which has a 3 – 4% tariff. If we simply just left without a deal that is how we would trade.

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Will the EU ever reform?

The simple answer is a definite “NO”! The EU project has always been ever closer union with as many countries as can be enticed to join the club. When countries voted the wrong way they were encouraged to vote again like Denmark and Ireland. Could this union be achieved by beating some of those countries into submission, like Greece and now the U.K.? The EU population has a population of 512 million but that will fall to 446 million post Brexit. How are they going to balance their books? 

Nobody knows what will happen to the EU when QE (quantative easing) ends. But the numbers are huge with Germany owed €871 billion. The EU has no system to manage an Italian debt crisis, a country which has seen no growth for almost 20 years. Italy is too big to fail and too big to save. 

A Eurozone breakup would be a disaster for Germany as it would destroy its export led business model which relies on a weaker Euro than the strong Deutsche Mark it used to have.

Are you happy with the way Theresa May has handled the Brexit negotiations?

If she had stuck to her Mansion House (14th November 2016) and Lancaster Gate (17th January 2017) speeches, we would be getting a better deal. 

Theresa May took a gamble by having an unnecessary general election on 8th June 2017 and ending up with a minority government which has weakened her negotiating position dramatically. 

Instead she has been listening to her Civil Service Mandarins which culminated in the soft-Brexit Chequers deal on 9th July 2018 resulting in multiple resignations from the Brexiteers in the cabinet.  This watered down compromise which is now the starting position for negotiations with the EU so where we end up is an even worse place.

The Chequers plan protects the EU’s £92 billion trade surplus with Britain, promises no tariffs and acceptance of EU regulations, continues our full intelligence and security operation and not to lower any of environmental or labour  standard – and still the EU want more. 

What threats are now being mooted by the EU?

The EU wants to close our option of a “no deal” in which we transition out of the EU in an orderly fashion and then operate under WTO rules. They are talking about closing the skies to U.K. aircraft.

However, Treaties dating back to the beginning of the International Air Services Transit Agreement signed as part of the Chicago Convention in 1944 guarantee the freedom of the skies. This is signed by 133 countries, including the UK and all EU member states. Ireland has been a signatory since 1957. There is another agreement permitting British aircraft to fly over Ireland which the Irish government chooses not to publicise.

The EU says there will be huge delays at major ports (forgetting it works both ways). If pushed, the British anger could rise and the “Dunkirk Spirit” return as we batten down and we withdraw cooperative arrangements on which the EU relies, like troops and intelligence.

Is Germany ready to fight both the U.S. and the U.K. on car tariffs on their biggest market. Does France want to lose its lucrative agricultural exports, the Netherlands its bacon industry?

Some people see this as a great opportunity to start again. What steps would you like to see being taken next to become a prosperous independent country? 

In fact, at least 51.9% vs 48.1% see Brexit as a great opportunity ahead. There is likely to be some short term economic pain and the voters accepted that when they voted to leave.

Brexit should be about opportunity and hope and confidence in competing in world markets with bilateral trade deals with the U.S., China, the Commonwealth (2,300 million people) and, yes, with the EU on the right terms. 

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The Continentals fear we can exploit our natural advantages of the English language, our natural alliances, our legal system, our scientific talents, our status as a world financial centre, having a seat on the UN Security Council, our armed forces our entrepreneurial spirit.

Britain has a proud history of trading around the world and the energy and opportunities that will be on offer will overcome any short term pain suffered.

The EU is terrified that the Anglo-Saxon business model which the U.K. could follow after Brexit, without the restrictions of the bureaucracy, will see us competing more successfully than the EU more Socialist model.

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