Lord Digby Jones Annual Lecture

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Lord Digby Jones Annual Lecture

On the 19th May, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Birmingham’s NEC complex, over 240 directors and non-executives attended the 10th Annual Harvey Nash Business Lecture, with keynote speaker Lord Digby Jones.

The event was opened  with some of the key findings from the micro survey which was completed by c. 700 of Harvey Nash’s senior business community from across the UK prior to the event. Most notable was the fact that over 59% of those that completed the survey expected to vote to remain in the EU come July.

Our CEO Albert Ellis followed with a short foreword, sharing his own thoughts on how the EU can be perceived, (and often is), as a deeply unattractive modern institution, however other constituencies view the union as an incredulous Utopia. With the ability to work and trade freely within the most prosperous trading block in the world, Albert referred to this enveloping sense of fluidity as almost enshrined in the EU’s DNA.

With the findings presented and solidified further by Albert, it was up to Lord Jones as one of the few who can intellectually rise to the challenge, to articulate an alternative vision.

He began by touching upon Democratic Capitalism and the biggest issue facing this system; life expectancy. Whilst this is an incredible achievement, it also poses insurmountable issues for the UK’s future inhabitants. The longer life expectancy of the population inevitably leads to a greater drain on critical social provisions such as the NHS and state pensions, therefore the only solution comes in the form of better innovation and more ferocious competition in order to create a greater churn into the ‘wealth cycle’.

For Lord Jones this is the key reasoning behind his promotion of Brexit; although fundamentally the EU has been a success, ending conflict whilst promoting peace and economic growth, it is no longer enough. The world has moved on, and the EU has not responded appropriately. Whilst the modern world develops and loses its sense of deference, the EU has become less competitive, less entrepreneurial and more regulated that the emerging economic Tom cats. The 21st century is Asia’s, and as a result, we are witnessing the sedulous decay of the sacred edifice that has fuelled the Western economy for the last three centuries, as Lord Jones so blatantly put it, ‘this business model is bust’. For Lord Jones then, Brexit will expose the UK to competition it does not see at present, forcing substantial growth and in turn a revival in British Industry and the British economy as a whole.

So is the UK able to go it alone in Asia’s century? Yes. Lord Jones likens Britain in 2016 to the ‘Perfect Storm’, after all we boast the lowest unemployment in the world, the highest sustainable growth, and low inflation rates. But more than this, and most importantly, is our position as one of the most globally engaged countries in the world. We are lightyears away from the unskilled subsidised Southern Europe who rely solely on the state; rather, we are the second biggest home of inward investment globally.

Finally, what was perhaps most remarkable about Lord Jones‘ lecture was his closing concept that there can be no ‘as you were’ following the referendum. Leave and things will be different, it will be a bumpy ride, but it won’t be insurmountable. Stay… and the inexorable march to the United Europe will continue, but things will be different. To ‘remain’ means to be on the periphery, to put up with it and become a reluctant state in the United States of Europe. To ‘leave’ forces the UK to be on the outside, to shape our own destiny and in turn create an even Greater Britain. Lord Jones left us with a Churchill quote, oft repeated by Eurosceptics; ‘We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed. If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea.’

Pippa Hawker & Dan Holland
Harvey Nash


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