John Redwood: Open letter to Tory donor Sir Andrew Cook - You can’t buy Brexit policy

Sir Andrew Cook, left, accompanies George Osborne during a tour of his facotry in Leeds.
Sir Andrew Cook, left, accompanies George Osborne during a tour of his facotry in Leeds.
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YORKSHIRE industrialist Sir Andrew Cook, a pro-Remain activist who has donated more than £1.2m to the Conservative Party, says he will withdraw his financial support from the Tories if Theresa May pulls Britain out of the single market. This is the response of senior Tory MP – and Leave supporter – John Redwood.

Dear Sir Andrew,

I wish you and your business every success. I was pleased to read on your website that the initials of William Cook also stand for “World Class”. You are right to be proud of your family company’s achievements and to be concerned for the welfare and future of your workforce.

As a donor to the Remain campaign and to the Conservative Party, you will know that donations do not buy influence or change of policy. Donations are made to support causes and parties the donor wants to support.

I am glad you have in the past chosen to support the Conservative Party, and hope that when we approach the next election you will once again see that the Conservatives offer the best policy proposals that can work for everyone, including successful family business owners.

It would never be right for the Conservative Party to change policy just because someone who granted it money wanted it to do so. It would be especially wrong to do so in defiance of a large vote by the UK electorate to leave the EU following a long and thorough campaign where all the arguments were fully exposed by both sides and poured over by experts.

Listening to you, your main worry appeared to be a possible loss of export orders to customer companies on the continent when we leave the EU and its internal market.

You will recall that both the Remain and the Leave campaign were clear during the referendum that a country cannot stay in the so-called single or internal market if it is no longer a member of the EU.

You will also recall that other member states and the Commission have explained endlessly that if a country is in the single market it has to accept freedom of movement, budget contributions and European Court of Justice control over our laws which the UK electors expressly rejected. Inside the EEA (European Economic Area), the UK would not be allowed to negotiate free trade agreements with non-EU countries, one of the bonuses of our departure.

The good news is we have reason to suppose we will retain good access to the markets of the continent when we leave the EU. 160 other countries around the world trade with the EU, some of them very successfully, without being members of the single market. Many individuals and companies in the rest of the EU are keen to retain open tariff-free access to our market, as they sell us so much more than we sell them.

If we all unite to offer the rest of the EU a friendly continuation of current tariff-free trade they might, after some huffing and puffing, conclude that they should accept as it is strongly in their interest.

If, by any chance, our former partners are swayed by mean spirits to seek revenge at their own expense for our departure, then we can trade well with their companies and people nonetheless under World Trade Organisation rules.

The average tariff is only 3.5 per cent. Half of all goods will remain tariff-free. You were worried that such a tariff would prevent your sales. The pound has fallen 18 per cent from its peak in July 2015 against the euro. Most of the fall occurred well before the vote, but it is down four per cent since its low in April 2016.

Even this modest fall since the vote exceeds the amount of the tariff, so UK products will still be cheaper than in April and considerably cheaper than in July 2015. I am sure given your world class products and the greater pricing flexibility you now enjoy you will continue to sell to your customers on the continent, whatever the eventual outcome on the basis for our trade with them.

As someone who has in the past led industrial companies selling onto the continent as well as worldwide, I can see no great problems in leaving the EU and its internal market whilst retaining decent access to it under a special agreement or under WTO rules.

I was used to dealing with long supply chain issues ranging across EU member states and non-member states from a UK base. We were always able to
use companies for supply
from outside the EU without special problems and often did so where they had good quality, technology and were price- competitive.

I do wish you and your employees every success in exploiting the more competitive level of our currency, and adding to your capacity to sell worldwide in these conditions.

Yours sincerely

John Redwood

John Redwood is a Conservative MP. He was a Cabinet minister in John Major’s government.