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As someone who has lived in, and loved, the UK for well over 20 years, and yet is not a British citizen, I have watched the EU referendum debate with great interest.
I was initially supportive of the case for Brexit, recognising the validity of some of the Leave campaign’s arguments. I emigrated here because of the unique dynamism of the UK economy, leaving behind what I considered to be the rigidity of the continent to embrace British economic liberalism. I also refuse to allow my decisions to be dictated by fear of the unknown, which is inevitably an important part of the Remain campaign. But as the fork in the road has drawn closer, and I have had time to listen to and research the arguments and facts on both sides, my interest has turned into deep concern. In short, I have changed my mind.
I had always been apprehensive about the effect Brexit could have on Europe. Now I am convinced that Britain would be significantly harmed, both economically and culturally, were we to attempt to pull up the drawbridge and cut ties with our closest neighbours. As an investor, my principal concern throughout has been to protect the value of my clients’ portfolios, as well as the more personal goal of ensuring that my family and I could continue to live in this country.
As far as the former goes, the short-term economic ramifications of Brexit are clear: there would probably be a sharp fall in global equities and the pound would suffer on the currency markets. Inevitably, the turmoil would create opportunities for fund managers, but the potential longer-term repercussions should not be underestimated. Previously, I tended to think that leaving the EU might not be as catastrophic an economic outcome as some in the City of London (and elsewhere) have suggested. The possibility of not being “ruled by Brussels” certainly sounds appealing on the surface for one of the world’s financial centres.
Over recent weeks, though, as the debate has become more and more heated, I have had time to examine closely the two possible outcomes. My reasons for supporting Remain are both moral and economic (although it is not always easy to separate the one from the other). I have become convinced that it is only by making the right moral decision that Britain will be able to protect its own economic interests. Europe will be weaker without the UK, and we will be weaker without Europe. We all have an interest in a Europe that is strong and stable, economically and politically.
The migrant crisis is a global problem whose solution is one of the central challenges to world economic growth. The answer to this pressing issue does not lie in opening our borders to all comers but rather in finding long-term solutions to instability in the Middle East and Africa. Potential migrants have to feel that there is a future — not only free from war and famine but also economically viable — in their home countries.
I believe strongly that a solution to this crisis will be driven by multilateral co-operation rather than individual nation states barricading themselves against the world. In other words, the migrant crisis is not going to go away, whether Britain leaves or stays.
The moral argument is also becoming clearer: Britain should play a role in dealing with the legacy of our interventions in the Middle East. We have stood shoulder to shoulder with the US and have lobbied our EU and UN allies to take more forthright stances on the so-called war on terror. To walk away from our obligations at this point, to think that we can strike out alone, trying to wash our hands of a migrant crisis that we played a role in creating, strikes me as fundamentally un-British.
The kinds of issues that the world and its financial markets will face in the coming years — migration, income inequality, climate change and an ageing western population — are all cross-border problems. Sustained global growth will come from addressing these challenges proactively. Britain’s economy will flourish if we are seen to take the lead on these issues, rather than pretending that we can exist in a bubble.
The financial markets have embraced globalisation over the past several decades, with London as their vital centre. It is morally right and will be economically fruitful for Britain to be at the heart of the most important global conversations, rather than on the fringes. To believe that Britain will reap economic benefits from leaving the EU requires an enormous leap of faith at this point. To believe that the country will be stronger, wealthier and more stable if we stay in the EU, is, for me at least, no longer in question.
The writer is managing director of Man GLG and chairman of Man Asia