Hello from the other side: top academics and thinkers put the case for ‘leave’
A group of academics form both sides of politics have banded together to give another side of the argument on Brexit.
Some of the most notable of these proponents include; Nigel Biggar, professor of theology at Oxford; Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6; David Abulafia, professor of history at Cambridge; and Sir Noel Malcolm of All Souls, Oxford. There are in total 37 of the brightest people, from both the left and the right, and their message is simple- an argument shouldn’t be one-sided.
The list has emerged because a pair of Cambridge academics, who want to call out the distortions of the remainers and give a voice to those who feel they have been “deluged with one-sided propaganda”. “I thought of it during one of those terribly pessimistic weeks,” says the economist Graham Gudgin, of the Judge Business School at Cambridge, “when Theresa May wasn’t going to last until teatime and there was definitely going to be a second referendum. Together we thought, ‘Gosh, we ought to be better organised than at the last referendum.’”
“It was,” says Robert Tombs, emeritus professor of French history at Cambridge, “the whole tide of propaganda about how awful everything was, how awful everything was going to be, and we didn’t believe this. We realised quite a lot of other people didn’t believe it either.”
Together they have designed a website briefingsforbrexit.com, which shines the light on some of the one-sided nature of the argument. The mission statement makes it clear this is an assault on the too-thick-to-vote theory of Brexit. By word of mouth the news got out and, without a word of publicity, they suddenly found they had a pantheon of super-smart supporters. “I’ve been surprised by how many people found out about it and came on board quickly,” says Gudgin. “We would not have known about them unless we set this up.” They are fully independent: the website is the only cost, and Gudgin paid for that.
Both have been motivated by completely different reasons. Gudgin, has been egged-on by the economic debate and Tombs the political. For Gudgin, he has always seen the economics as a problem, seeing issues in the two Treasury reports that were released throughout the referendum. He argued that the figures in the short-term impact report assumed the loss of business confidence would be 50% of the loss of confidence during the banking crisis. The long-term report, he argues assumed a close correlation between growth and productivity. But the assumption was based on just two papers that found a link in emerging economies. He says there was no link in developed economies.
For Tombs, a celebrated historian, the issue stems to the political factors within the EU. He has argued that the decision to join the EU was reactionary as we came to terms with our declining place on the world stage. Desperate to cling on, we joined the EU without fully considering the consequences. He said that although he hesitated to vote leave, he saw the dysfunction in Brussels as a guide to making his decision.
The website they have published takes a look at the more academic arguments behind leaving the EU. The academics who have contributed are all experts in their various fields and are determined to bring a balance to the debate.
The move comes as financier George Soros has donated £400,000 for an anti-Brexit campaign. Gudgin has openly criticsed this move saying that “[his] support for the pro-remain campaign shows there is a lot of big money behind hardline remainers, whose interests have little to do with the interests of the country as a whole, it shows that independent, self-funded initiatives like ours are all the more important. The other important news is the selective leaking of unsourced statistics; this shows again how much expert scrutiny is needed.”