A leading UK economist has told business travel leaders that Britain should leave the EU.
Gerard Lyons told the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) conference in Marco Island, Florida: “We need to distance ourselves from the problems of the euro zone.
“The euro zone is the slowest growth region in the world and, potentially, the EU is very unstable.”
Lyons compared the EU to The Titanic, saying: “There is a tendency to think we should be on the ship because it is big. The Titanic was told of impending danger. It didn’t change direction and it sank.”
He argued: “When Bank of England governor Mark Carney was asked ‘how long before economies on the periphery of the euro zone become like Germany’, he said 500 years. It’s an unstable system.”
Lyons added: “The EU is a tariff protection union. It was set up to protect farming in France and industry in Germany.
“We probably pay 17% more for our food in the EU than on the world market. If we leave, UK farmers will find it hard but we’ll be outside the tariff wall.”
He told the GTMC: “It’s absolute nonsense to say you need a trade deal to trade.
“You can go into any shop in the UK and buy goods from China. But we don’t have an EU trade deal with China.”
Lyons insisted: “The world economy would cope with Brexit. But the problems in the periphery of the euro zone won’t go away.
“The challenge will be whether Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy can hang on [in the euro zone] in the next economic downturn.”
He added: “The Remain side believes ‘Project Fear’ will work. But if we stay Brussels will say ‘We called your bluff. Now put up and shut up.’
“If we vote to remain there needs to be a sea change in how the UK embraces the EU.”
He told GTMC members:: “You should be lobbying for a change in Whitehall because Whitehall does not engage enough with the EU.”
Lyons, who has just published ‘An Easy Guide to Leaving the EU’, said he had concluded it was “best to be within a fully reformed EU or leave”.
A survey of GTMC members and suppliers at the conference suggested almost two-thirds favour remaining in the EU.
GTMC chief executive Paul Wait defended the association’s neutral stance on the referendum, saying: “It could affect other issues. Not everyone agrees.”
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