Yorkshire industrialist Cook calls for 'Grand Alliance of the Centre' over Brexit

A leading industrialist has called on politicians to set aside their differences and form a 'Grand Alliance of the Centre' to stop Britain heading towards 'catastrophe' by leaving the single market.
Sir Andrew Cook fears for Britain's economic future if the UK leaves the single market under Brexit.Sir Andrew Cook fears for Britain's economic future if the UK leaves the single market under Brexit.
Sir Andrew Cook fears for Britain's economic future if the UK leaves the single market under Brexit.

Speaking at a conference in Sheffield, Sir Andrew Cook said the country faces “the greatest catastrophe since 1939” and warned of an impending economic crisis caused by dramatic falls in sterling. The chairman of engineering group William Cook Holdings said the Government’s decision to implement a hard Brexit was “at best irresponsible, at worst rank insanity”.

He dismissed claims that Britain will be able to increase trade with the US, South America, Asia Pacific and Africa after shutting off access to the Continent’s free trade zone.

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“This is a political matter. Politics caused it and politics has to put it right,” Sir Andrew told the European Movement conference.

“But there will be no solution without first an economic crisis. For the moment, the economy is enjoying a ‘flywheel effect’ but this will slow down. I believe that sooner or later, there will be a sterling crisis. This will cause a fracturing in British politics.

“This is about the survival of Britain. Politicians must put country before party and people’s jobs before their own. I hope I am wrong. But if, as I fear, I am right, I call for those politicians who are above all pragmatists and patriots to put aside their differing ideologies and prepare to form a Grand Alliance of the Centre to stop Britain hurtling towards catastrophe.”

Sir Andrew​ quoted Rudyard Kipling, ​saying the case to leave the E​U was “twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”.

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“Those knaves delivered a small majority of 1.3m to unconditionally leave the EU. As a result, I believe Britain faces the greatest catastrophe since 1939: not a military catastrophe, but an economic one. Here in Britain, the oil is running out. The bankers are preparing to leave. The investors are walking away.”

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Tim Dewey​, CEO of Keighley-based brewery Timothy Taylor​ disagreed, saying that Theresa May​ was right to say the UK w​ill​ leave the single market.

​“​While some people call this a ‘hard Brexit’ it is, in reality, the only genuine Brexit that the​ ​U​K can have as it is only by leaving the single market that we can regain our​ ​sovereignty, which was at the heart of the Leave vote​,” he said.​

​“A​s other member​ ​states and the Commission have explained clearly, if a country is in the single market it has to​ ​accept key elements that go directly against our sovereignty. These are acceptance of​ ​freedom of movement, budget contributions, and, perhaps most pernicious of all, being​ ​subject to the laws of the European Court of Justice. In addition to be​ing​ subject to these three​ ​factors we would also have no right to negotiate our own trade deals with other fast growing​ ​and dynamic parts of the world.​“

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Mr Dewey added that​ remaining a member of the single market and having access to​ ​it are two entirely different concepts.

​“​Access to the single market cannot be denied. In a​ ​worst case scenario we would trade with Europe under WTO rules with an average tariff of​ ​only 3.5​ per cent​​ - ​far less than the recent devaluation of sterling​,” he said.​

​“​Of course if common and economic sense prevails, and there is a growing chorus from the​ ​Continent for this to be the case, then there is no reason why we can’t allow the EU continued​ ​tariff free access to our market in return for tariff free access to theirs​. Remember that​ ​they sell us much more than we sell them.​”