Q+A: Expat and UK Leave Campaigner interviewed by Greg Boyed
Q+A: Expat and UK Leave Campaigner Shane Frith interviewed by Greg Boyed
‘The idea that Britain cannot survive or thrive outside of the EU is nonsense’ says ex-pat Kiwi.
Former NZ Young Nats president Shane Frith who worked on the Leave Campaign and is based in London says people who don’t want to accept the results of the vote are ‘in the first stage of grief. They’re in denial.’
There is no chance of Parliament voting against the referendum to vote to stay in despite a Labour MP calling to do so, he says.
“It shows the mind set of some individuals, who think that the will of the people should just be ignored.”
Speaking to Greg Boyed on TV One’s Q+A programme, he says “it was not the best example of shining democracy. There were things done on both sides that I thought were appalling”.
“On day one when Britain is fully out, essentially what will happen is existing British laws and existing British trade agreements will remain static. Britain can then start to negotiate new ones. And interestingly enough, I’ve seen that there’s already suggestions of free trade agreements with the likes of New Zealand, and in fact a suggestion that Britain join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So anything’s possible at this point in time,” he says.
“New Zealand as a country of 4.3 million people does quite nicely outside of the EU. The idea that Britain cannot survive or thrive outside of the EU is nonsense.”
Q + A
Interviewed by GREG BOYED
GREG We’ve got a real Kiwi in the UK. Joining me now is Shane Frith. He’s an expat New Zealander in London who’s been working for the Leave campaign. And I imagine this morning is a reasonably, reasonably pleased chap. Good morning to you, Shane. Initially, your reaction to the Brexit?
SHANE Delighted. And I think it wasn’t as much of a surprise for some of us as it has been for others. The polls have been very close within the margin of error. It shouldn’t have been a shock for those who have been genuinely surprised.
GREG We are seeing, though, a fairly divided nation there. What’s the feeling over there 36 hours on?
SHANE Well, yes, you’re correct – it’s divided. But a majority of about two million people have voted to leave. You’ve got a lot of noise from some very vocal people from the Remain side, who essentially can’t accept that they’ve lost the debate. It’s actually quite amazing to look at the arguments that continue. There’s even a Labour MP, he’s just come out saying he wants Parliament to vote against the referendum, to vote to stay in, to ignore the referendum. There’s no chance of that actually happening. But it shows the mindset of some individuals, who think that the will of the people should just be ignored. And this has also come across from a number of people on the Continent that want to ignore the result. And, famously, the European Union often has gone back to countries that have voted the wrong way and almost made them vote again. It’s happened to Denmark, it happened to Ireland. When they’ve rejected different aspects of the European Union treaties in the past, rather than accept the will of the people, they say, ‘No. Try again.’ But I’m very certain that this will not happen to Britain. Britain is out.
GREG That said, the dissatisfaction is growing. A petition signed by over two million people as of this morning. And the numbers— Supposedly, if the majority is less than, I think, 65% – which of course it was; it was 52% – there is grounds to look at another referendum. Do you think that going to happen at all?
SHANE Not a chance. You would have an absolute revolt. You know, look, politicians globally aren’t very well respected. But if you had politicians now who rejected the will of the people, who have clearly come out and said that this is what is wanted— We’ve also endured a three-month, quite gruelling and divisive campaign. You know, referendums can— because they’re binary, there’s no grey area. It’s not party politics with a whole lot of various things. It’s in or out. It is settled. You’ve got some people who don’t want to accept it. I think they’re in the first stage of grief. They’re in denial. I think, give it a week, things will start to calm down.
GREG Okay, Shane, talking about grief, the British pound – the lowest point it’s been at since 1985. You’re a businessman. You’re there. What difference is this going to make to your life?
SHANE For me right now, not much. I’ve got some bills coming up in a month that I’ll have to pay in euros, so I’m hoping it will bounce back. But, look, it’s something that comes along in life. Again, it’s not completely surprising. You’ve actually had the appalling situation in the last three months where the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Governor of the Bank of England have talked down the British economy. They’ve said, ‘If Britain leaves, it will be a catastrophe.’ And, of course, the markets have ignored that up until now. They’ve woken up and realised that Britain is out, and they’ve said what these people have said in the heat of a campaign. I don’t think they meant it. I think it was unwise of them to have said what they did. I think as things calm down, the markets will bounce back. Even today, senior German politicians have basically indicated that they want to make sure that the British leaving of the EU is done in a calm manner that is not economically harmful to Britain or the rest of the European Union. You know, you guys brought me here in a car with a driver. It was a Merc. The Germans sell a lot of cars to Britain. If they start a big scrap with Britain over trade, there’ll be a massive tariff goes on German cars, and all of a sudden, we’ll be buying Jaguars and Lexuses and Cadillacs. We can afford to do that; they still want to sell cars to Britain.
GREG Okay. We’re talking sort of the here and now. Further down the road, this is territory that is, for a lot of people, unknown. What are you predicting is going to happen six months, a year down the track from this?
SHANE Nothing’s going to change— Well, for starters, Britain won’t fully leave the European Union for at least another two and a half years. So nothing’s going to change in the long term. And even on day one when Britain is fully out, essentially what will happen is existing British laws and existing British trade agreements will remain static. Britain can then start to negotiate new ones. And interestingly enough, I’ve seen that there’s already suggestions of free trade agreements with the likes of New Zealand, and in fact a suggestion that Britain join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So anything’s possible at this point in time. I think there’ll be a gradual shift away, and I think as time goes on, it will be good for Britain. Britain is a trading nation. In fact, it’ll also be very good for New Zealand as well. At the moment, there’s about a 20% tax on wine coming into the European Union from outside of the EU. So I do hope to see some more Kiwi wine on the supermarket shelves.
GREG The Leave campaign, which you were a part of – do you think it misled voters with what this was all about and what this was going to mean?
SHANE It was a very complex debate, and it’s also difficult in the sense that this wasn’t a political party campaigning on a manifesto. The Leave campaign were mainly putting out their vision of what was possible. Some people took it as being a manifesto commitment. But it’s just not going to happen that way. About a year after Britain formally leaves the EU, there will be a general election. There will be, you know, three and more parties vying to be the government, and they will stand on their manifestos, which will take into account the new reality. But it was not in the gift of the Leave campaign to make promises, to say, ‘Look, if we leave, you will get this.’ A) They’re not in the government. But, secondly, a lot of it is unknown, because they need to work with the European Union as part of negotiating the exit strategy, and other countries in terms of trade and so forth. Look, it was not the best example of shining democracy. There were things done on both sides that I thought were appalling. On the government side, the way that they used government resources, government money – the Remain side – and what we referred to as Project Fear, where they told outright lies about what was possible to happen, and with awful consequences. I live in an area with a large number of European migrants, and on the day after—
GREG Part of this, though— Because, Shane, you were a part of some of this, with the Leave campaign. Some regret from you?
SHANE Oh, absolutely not, no. In fact, I’m proud that I was involved in the campaign, you know – in a little way, I must say. But, no, it was a campaign that was optimistic, looked towards the future and painted a great opportunity. Look, Britain is now in a very similar position to New Zealand. It’s going to be a free country that can negotiate its own trade arrangements and make its own laws. New Zealand as a country of 4.3 million people does quite nicely outside of the EU. The idea that Britain cannot survive or thrive outside of the EU is nonsense. And I think it’s now in Britain’s hands. It can go two ways. You know, Britain can make some bad decisions and mess things up. You know, countries get to do that. But it is now Britain’s opportunity to make that decision. It’s not going to be decisions coming out of Brussels and Strasbourg. And so it’s for Britain to make the success of it.
GREG All right, Shane, we will leave it there. Thank you so much for your time. That’s Shane Frith in London.