Brexit – The Silencing of Business Leaders


Part of the role of a CEO of any company amongst other important tasks is assessing risks to the organisation and ensuring they are monitored and minimized. The CEO must be constantly communicating, on behalf of the company and its stakeholders and in some cases this may include government entities and the general public. For instance, the CEO of Britain’s largest haulage company, which is Royal Mail plc has a legal responsibility to inform shareholders about a known risk to the business and a moral responsibility towards the public. How then, can the government ‘gag’ CEO’s about the risks of Brexit if the risk to that business must be legally declared?

  • Serious threats of business losses to companies seen to be supporting remaining in the EU
  • Threats extended to dismissals of CEO’s for warning of dangers to their own stakeholders
  • Senior Tory knighted in recent honours list for acting a state rottweiler
  • Dozens of Britain’s business leaders implore Theresa May to offer second referendum amid threats

Tory MP John Redwood has just been knighted in the New Years honours list. There have already been accusations this came about for backing Theresa May’s unpopular withdrawal agreement from the EU. The news was greeted with a tidal wave of anger and criticism.

The truth is that Redwood is being rewarded for acting like a state Rottweiler.

Tory MP John Redwood had ordered the corporate world in Britain to ‘toe-the-line’ or face the consequences of a post-Brexit Tory wrath that included being forcibly removed from their comfy corporate positions if they failed to do so.”

This is an excerpt from an article in a national newspaper that was published as far back as 2014, well before David Cameron had announced the EU referendum in Britain. In the Book, Brexit – A Corporate Coup D’Etat, I dedicated a chapter on this point and other tactics of bullying and coercion by the state.

The Telegraph reported that: “Businesses that speak out for Britain’s EU membership will be punished, vows John Redwood.”

In that article, John Redwood is quoted as saying “companies who publicly back staying in EU will pay a ‘very dear economic and financial price”, with executives potentially losing their jobs.

And John Redwood has form when it comes to being a member of an extreme band of Brexiteers known as the ‘Ultras’ who use the tactics of threats and fear.

An ardent supporter of one of the most important “think tanks” behind the Brexit propaganda machine is the Legatum Institute. It is a fountainhead of false predictions, delusional thinking and empty promises. Its funding comes from a Dubai-based private investment group backed by a New Zealander who, in the words of a recent Times article, allegedly made his money by “exploiting trading opportunities created by extreme political disruption”. Surely that says something about the motives of such people, especially when it comes to Brexit.

In October 2016, The Legatum Institute sponsored a report called ‘The Road to Brexit’. The foreword was by Iain Duncan Smith. Also writing for the report were the MPs John Redwood, Peter Lilley, Owen Paterson and Bernard Jenkin – leading members of the “Ultras”.

The Guardian’s article “No wonder John Redwood backs Brexit. He will make money out of it, after all” explains some of the dynamics and motivations for Redwood’s actions, some of which, are really quite shocking in nature.

From VoxPolitical: “How kind of John Redwood to give us all a glimpse of the kind of despotism Tories want to inflict on us all – by trying to inflict it on business bosses first.

As for the rest of us, invites VoxPolitical – let’s ask prime minister Theresa May the question posed on Twitter by Professor Ian Donald:

How is it acceptable for one of your MPs to threaten people with losing their jobs if they are pro-EU?” We now know, that Leave only won with the help of vote-rigging internet companies, so people like Redwood have absolutely no business trying to bully anyone.

The Telegraph article added the very explicit and threatening quote that:

If they don’t understand that now, they will find those of us organising the ‘get out’ campaign will then make life difficult for them by making sure that their customers, their employees and their shareholders who disagree with them – and there will be a lot who disagree with them – will be expressing their views very forcefully and will be destabilising their corporate governance.

More threats are then thrown.

This is absolutely crucial that these people get this. That it will be deeply disruptive to their businesses, and maybe even to their own tenure of their jobs if a chief executive with a handful of shares thinks he can put the voice of a multi-national corporation behind a highly intense political argument in one country in which they operate.”

“It would be extremely foolish and we must make sure they have to pay a very dear economic and financial price were they to try that ill-judged thing.”

This is, as I make out in the book – just some of the language of Brexit.

The Telegraph then went on to point out that “The former Welsh secretary (John Redwood) demanded firms “keep out” of the debate and “beware” not to “meddle in politics” and that “the only answer for all concerned is for big business to keep out and not express a corporate view”.

In November, Chancellor Philip Hammond pointed out it was crucial to hear from Britain’s CEO’s being supportive of Theresa May. A week later, more than 70 major business leaders called for a second referendum on Brexit. Bosses from major high street companies such as Waterstones and Sainsbury’s warned Theresa May’s Brexit proposals are “bad for business and bad for working people”.

To combat this, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a radical departure from Foreign Office tradition by opening up 1,000 ambassadorships to business leaders in a bid to boost post-Brexit trade – adopting a US-style model for the UK’s diplomatic service.

Business and their officials, no matter how big or small are entitled to get into the debate. They actively engage in the EU with many making significant profits directly from the EU and are answerable to their shareholders. Politically threatening and silencing individuals for having an opinion or making valid points is a dangerous path for any government who are responsible for upholding the democratic principles of the nation.


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Featured image is from TP

Articles by: Graham Vanbergen

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