Embracing difference: Preparing for a non-binary future

Today is #IDAHOTB – International day against Homophobia, Transphopbia and Biphobia. In many ways we are extremely lucky in the UK with the progress we have made regarding #LGBT+ equality, and my thoughts on this day are very much with those living in countries less fortunate than myself and who are discriminated against and have no legal or community support at all.

Here in the UK, we however still need to make progress also and have to keep up with the times. There are sadly still too many horrible stories of Homophopbia, Transphobia and Biphobia and every occasion is one too many. I gave an interview, about my experience growing up as a gay man in a typical UK working environment and more importantly about the changes I think we need to embrace going forwards as employers and society. I hope my reflections help spark some thoughts and discussion:

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Difference is something to be revered rather than feared. Many improvements have been made at Siemens in recent years to make the company a more welcoming place, but Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens UK, informed by his personal experience, explains why more must be done to reflect a changing society.

Ever pretended to be someone you’re not, just so you can fit in? Juergen Maier knows what it’s like; after all, he hid his sexuality from colleagues for over 15 years.

Fearful that outing himself as a gay man would impact his progression within Siemens, he decided for “right or wrong reasons” to stay silent. Without role models, without people “like him” working alongside him, he felt it was safer to play into people’s assumptions. He was climbing up the career ladder, but didn’t want to risk everytvhing he’d strived so hard to achieve. “At that time, I thought it was easier for me to pretend to be heterosexual as opposed to expressing who I really am,” he admits.

It came at a price. Not only did the burden of inauthenticity weigh heavily on his mind, but his work suffered. “I’d been wrestling this for a long time,” he says, “and that meant my performance, my focus, and my creativity was affected in a negative way.”

Not being truly authentic, and feeling pressured to conceal an aspect of his character that he should have felt comfortable — and proud — to reveal, was becoming too much. It was halfway through his career, when he was 15 years in, that he finally had the confidence to claim — and own — who he really was.

Everything changed when he broke the act. “There is no question that after coming out and being allowed to be who I am, I became a much stronger individual,” he says. “I was more creative, a more confident communicator, and a better team player.”

Juergen’s experience is, Siemens hopes, an example of a bygone era. It’s a result of a less open and inclusive culture; a period when difference was feared rather than celebrated for the better outcomes that confident and inclusive teams generate.

And he doesn’t want any current or future employees to have the same experience he had – not a single one.

And he needs help.

Starting the conversation: The future is non-binary

We could reel off a list of initiatives and campaigns to show how much more inclusive Siemens has become over the years, but the reality is, despite things having improved immensely, there is far more to be done. “We’re just catching up to being more inclusive towards the LGBTQ+ community,” he says. At the same time society is progressing at a faster pace, this is especially prevalent in Generation Z (those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s) – to claim their difference and smash down stereotypes and traditional attitudes.

He applauds this group of young people who are expressing themselves in ways he felt he could not; with non-binary people in particular fighting back against the very concept of traditional male and female gender classification. “We don’t want people to have to conform to what might have been the norm some time ago,” he says, “and Siemens has a way to go before it truly represents the society it sits within.”

But he is honest. He absolutely does not have all the answers. In fact, he doesn’t even have the right language to sustain a conversation.

“We haven’t got a clue about the way in which Generation Z is presenting itself,” he says. “We have made progress but we don’t have the right language, culture or politics for this generation yet.”

He urges current and future employees to stand up and join the dialogue about how Siemens can adapt to more accurately reflect the needs and views of non-binary people. Young people are ripping up the rulebook, and it’s time for companies to take note

It won’t be easy. It won’t be solved in an instant, but that does not mean he’ll shy away from it. “This is going to be completely new ground and in very many ways uncomfortable, but we need to prepare ourselves for a different future generation.”

His personal experiences have taught him how vital it is to work in an atmosphere where you can be comfortable in your own skin. After all, if you can’t be your true self, you can’t be your best.

But it also reinforced how crucial diversity is for the success of a company. “Siemens’ customers represent society at large,” he says, “And therefore if we think in a non-inclusive way, we may be designing and creating the wrong innovations, services, and products.” Ultimately, diversity is the key to success at an individual and a company-wide level. Defying categorization and embracing difference – points of view, characters, and experiences – leads to the best ideas.

By admitting Siemens doesn’t currently have the right language right now, he hopes others will join the conversation and help the company to prepare for a more diverse, inclusive and equal future. But how? “Engage with us. Be yourself, and be confident that your difference is your strength rather than your weakness.”

So, over to you. What moves can and must be made in order to spark real and effective change? The conversation has started, Juergen welcomes you to join in.

The Northern Powerhouse – let’s make it work for everyone!

More than 200 years ago the North of England was the birthplace of the original Industrial Revolution.

The dramatic shift to adopt new manufacturing processes was spearheaded by the textiles industry in the North West, ship building in the North East, which reached every corner of the globe and steelmaking giving Sheffield a worldwide reputation.

The transformational effect a world-class industry can have on the north was demonstrated during that original Industrial Revolution, as industrial cities saw their population grow tenfold, attracted by the jobs of the future and new emerging specialist industries.

It was also this revolution that led Siemens to set up shop in the UK over 170 years ago. Especially because the north became a magnet for innovation – a global beacon of trade – which it must and can do again through the power of new digital technology.

This month I will be speaking at a number of leading forums to champion the North’s future technology potential – including a speech this week at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre together with the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. I will also be speaking about the importance of our brilliant women entrepreneurs in the North and better innovation through embracing more diversity at the WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) conference in Manchester today. I am also looking forward to opening the Financial Times Northern Summit on May 24th.

At each of these my message will be simple – the north can create and lead a new 21st century industrial revolution and in doing so can be at the forefront of brand new industries and brand new companies.

There is no reason why the next tech pioneer, the next Spotify or WhatsApp or industrial Artificial Intelligence leader cannot be created in Sheffield, Leeds, Sunderland or anywhere else in our great region.

At Siemens, we’re so confident about this, that we will be opening our second digital university innovation lab at Newcastle University on 14th of May. It will be tasked with accelerating regional digitalisation, boosting digital skills for graduates – promoting technology and knowledge exchange to meet the needs of an increasingly digitalised society.

Many have asked why I am so personally passionate about investing in the north – especially after our recent announcement that we hope to make a second major investment in East Yorkshire, with our proposed train factory in Goole. The reason is simple – we cannot afford to let this wave of change pass the region by, as we allowed in the 70’s and 80’s.

And no one will do this for us, not least Westminster or Whitehall. It is leaders in business, education and local politics in the North that must drive this.

I spent my youth growing up in Leeds, as it struggled to cope with the effects of ‘de-industrialisation’, followed by a crippling recession in the early 80’s. Too many people were left ill-equipped to deal with the change in industry. So much potential and talent was lost, and the opportunities for a new generation were not created. This failure to adapt and modernise cost the north dearly, and the reason why this new digital industrial revolution is so important is that we must be determined to do a much better job this time around.

I have also been privileged to lead a piece of work as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy looking at how we can win back our winning streak in this new Industrial Revolution. We have called this new movement ‘Made Smarter’ and you can read more about it here

The unique characteristics of the Northern Powerhouse mean that this region can and must lead this new ‘Made Smarter’ Industrial Revolution. A region of 15 million people, working together across traditional rivalries and boundaries in some of the most vibrant, productive and diverse cities, towns and communities in the UK.

So my call to action is for you to spread the word about how much potential our region has in this new digital industrial revolution, and carry this message beyond the business world and into our communities.

This is our chance, your chance to create your own Industrial Revolution – underpinned by digital technology, making things again, but much smarter and creating long lasting social value for the north of England.

New Siemens Rail factory plans hope to spark a new UK Rail Industrial Revolution!

Today marks a very important day for Siemens and one that I am hugely excited about. We are announcing our plans to build a new rail factory in the UK.

We have signed a long-term agreement for the lease of land in Goole, East Riding of Yorkshire, with a view to establishing a new state-of-the-art factory there to manufacture and commission trains.

Our plan is to start phased development of the 67-acre (equivalent to 40 football pitches) site later this year if investment conditions are met, and if we’re successful in winning major future orders.

This development, which could mean an investment of up to £200m, marks a major milestone in Siemens’ journey in the UK and will provide a huge boost to the Yorkshire economy, the North of England, and UK plc as a whole.

I am very hopeful that this investment would spark a new generation of Railway manufacturing in the region and as such become a superb example of Industrial Strategy in action; UK and local infrastructure investments, leading to local high tech industrialisation and the creation of thousands of well paid jobs and a boost to the local economy.

We have already shown to make such an Industrial Strategy work in the Humber region, where our investment to build blades for the off-shore wind sector is now creating many more opportunities and new jobs in local supply chains and helping create economic prosperity across the Humber region.

We have a long history of being a pioneer in the UK rail sector. We developed Eurostar’s new e320 train, currently the fastest high-speed train in service in the UK, and recently delivered the re-signalling of the Victoria Line, which since May 2017 has been delivering a train on the Line every 100 seconds at peak time. We are also in the process of rolling out 115 state-of-the-art Class 700 trains for Thameslink.

This new rail factory would help to expand our UK presence even further, take our UK headcount in just the transport  sector to over 5000 and cement our status as a leader in the UK rail industry and manufacturing sector as a whole.

Nothing would please me more than this factory becoming an anchor for a new industry that is helping deliver a new state of the art Northern Powerhouse Railway, as it is high time that we better connect our great cities of the north.

The Northern Powerhouse is a vital element of our economic future, and I hope that with this investment we can help provide a massive economic boost and help create a new world class Northern Powerhouse Rail Industrial Revolution!

Read more about this exciting development at www.siemens.co.uk/goole

Why Britain must lead the fourth industrial revolution

 

Today we’re announcing the findings of the business led industrial digitalisation review, which has been branded as ‘Made Smarter UK’. Its aim, to set out the basis for how the UK can lead the fourth industrial revolution.

The work is the product of eight months work, led by a team of UK CEO’s from businesses large and small and it has been a privilege to lead the work. We have taken contributions from over 200 organisations including our world leading Universities, the CBI, Royal Academy of Engineering and our British R&D Catapult centres.

So why is this important, and why now? Firstly, we are at a critical juncture in politics and business. Brexit dominates the agenda and there are increasing uncertainties. The prospect of rising interest rates and inflation haunts consumers. Inward investment is becoming increasingly difficult. Short term challenges threaten to derail how the UK plans for the long term, and invests in the technologies that will help industry and specifically manufacturing thrive over the next two decades. As business leaders we have therefore focused on this very positive and tangible piece of work and not the short term uncertainties. We believe that we desperately need to have a long term economic vision for the country – regardless of Brexit, regardless of political instability and economic volatility.

Our review into digitalisation tries to address this need for a UK technology vision. We have concluded that the Government’s industrial strategy will need a red thread of digital running through its core. It will not be about reviving long gone industries but rather it will be about building the new ones, in AI, virtual reality, big data, machine learning, simulation platforms – the merging of creative digital tech and industrial tech. This will form a new vibrant and growing ‘creation sector’; creating digital tech, software, algorithms, digital media, games and many agile digital factories. Our proposals focus on how the UK can use these technologies and strengths to improve productivity, wages and the number of jobs in the economy. Industrial digitalisation could boost UK manufacturing by £455bn, increasing sector growth up to 3% per year; creating a net gain of 175,000 jobs whilst reducing CO2 emissions by 4.5% – and we think there could be a huge growth new jobs and businesses specialising in the new digital technologies of the future. Put simply, the opportunity is huge, and that is why countries across the globe are racing to invest in this new industrial revolution.

The UK however is being held back by a history of chronic underinvestment in innovation and skills, so we have identified a series strategic challenges government and industry must overcome.  The challenges include the need to increase the speed of adoption of industrial digital technologies, faster innovation of these same technologies, combined with stronger and more ambitious leadership to transform British industry.

For adoption we need a stronger national digital ecosystem. Government and industry should create a significantly more visible and effective ecosystem that will accelerate the innovation and diffusion of industrial digital technologies into manufacturing. We are proposing a National Adoption Programme piloted in the North West which as region has inherent technology strengths. Additionally we think we need to up-skilling one million workers to enable digital technologies to be deployed and successfully exploited through a Single Industrial Digitalisation Skills Strategy. To innovate the UK must re-focus the existing innovation landscape by increasing capacity and capability through 12 new ‘Digital Innovation Hubs’, eight large scale demonstrators and five digital research centres focused on developing new technologies part of a new National Innovation Programme. To strengthen leadership, business has called for the creation a national body, the Made Smarter UK (MSUK) Commission, comprising industry, Government, Academia, FE and leading Research and Innovation organisations, responsible for developing the UK as a leader in Industrial Digitalisation Technologies (IDT) and skills.

Industry is committed to working in partnership with Government to revive UK manufacturing, and firmly believes that only this combined package of measures, that go beyond business as usual and historical offerings, will achieve the level of ambition needed for the UK to be a world leader of the fourth industrial revolution. Britain made its way in the world by being at the forefront of the first industrial revolution in the 19th century. It capitalised on the second by leading in methods of mass production in the early 20th century. Somehow in the 1970’s we lost our way and missed out on the revolution of automation that countries like Germany embraced much better than we did. Now is the time to leap ahead and fully immerse the UK in digital – that way we won’t miss this fourth industrial revolution and be waiting with baited breath for a fifth. It’s down to today’s innovators and business leaders to get involved; to work in partnership with the public sector to ensure more longer-term thinking, and make sure all businesses invest and innovate to create a digitally led industrial Britain. My call to action to Government and the business community is to come together to embrace these proposals, as something positive we can get behind. Focusing on the long term challenge of embracing this new industrial revolution is vital if Britain is to succeed economically this century.

You can find the full review report here

Munduruku tribe and balanced debate

On Thursday last week our head office in the UK was the location for a colourful visit from members of the Munduruku tribe and Greenpeace protesters. The topic of protest, I recognise as an important debate and it is an active debate going on all over the world; How do countries build energy infrastructure to meet an ever higher demand of energy, at the same time making it affordable and with minimum adverse environmental and social impact. In this case the Munduruku tribe is very understandably concerned about the potential negative environmental impact hydroelectric dam projects in Brazil’s Amazon would have on their environment and community.

I was sorry not to be able to make the impromptu meeting with Chief Arnaldo Kabá Munduruku and Greenpeace, but receiving one days notice via an ‘open letter’ in the FT is an unusual way to request a meeting. Had I received a letter or an email I would have made a firm arrangement with them. Contrary to subsequent reports by Greenpeace, two of my senior leadership team were able to change their schedules and were on standby to welcome the visitors. The Chief was an eloquent ambassador for his people and the meeting was conducted on all sides in a very constructive, open and respectful manner.

Firstly, let me make clear that I personally and at Siemens, we very much share the same values of environmental protection and care for communities as Greenpeace and it was good that in their meeting with us they recognized and confirmed that. Sustainability is core to Siemens culture and we have been top of the Dow Jones sustainability index since its inception.

Secondly, let me also be clear that Siemens is not involved in any hydroelectric power projects in Brazil. In fact, our information is that the mega dam project in question was recently cancelled by the Brazilian Government.
For any major infrastructure project, it is always a complex balance between matching human needs for things like access to electricity, more travel and higher energy consumption with the need to protect unique habitat and prevent further pollution of our planet.

So, these difficult issues need objective debate supported by facts and scientific evidence of all the options available, enabling Governments to consult with their communities and choose the solution that matches the needs the best and causes the least harm. Unfortunately, I have never seen a major infrastructure project that matches all criteria and everyone’s wishes.

Regarding this Greenpeace organised visit I’m afraid, I have to question both the process and balance. What was the real intention of bringing this debate to Siemens in the UK? Of course we will have all identified with the potential risk and felt emotionally touched by the Munduruku tribe and their fear of being displaced. But do we now have a clear view of what the other options are? Would these create even more social displacement or negative environmental impact? Was there enough objective evidence from all sides?

We seem to be living in a new world of fast and social media that is mainly focused on sensational headlines and with complex and emotional issues like this debate we need it to be much more thoughtful, rational and fact based.

I’m personally very concerned by this trend and that we are allowing less space for experts views and balanced debate. Michael Gove’s now famous quote during his Brexit campaign of ‘Britain has had enough of experts’ a damning example of that.

I will certainly continue to listen to experts from all sides of any debate. On this particular one, I thank Greenpeace for providing me their view, but I will not be bullied into a position through headline grabbing campaigns at very short notice. If they’d like to meet me in the future – do just contact me in the normal way!

An exciting future for UK Manufacturing inside the EU Single Market

BSE_Bus

Yesterday,  I got together with fellow CEO’s of Airbus and GKN, Paul Kahn and Nigel Stein, for a press conference, specifically on the future of UK manufacturing in relation to the EU referendum.

We represent three very strong UK manufacturing organisations, and together employ 35,000 people directly in this sector here.

We were joined by Vince Cable, Former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, who reminded us of the importance of UK’s manufacturing sector. Our Sector is responsible for nearly half of all of UK’s exports and two thirds of all Research & Development spend of UK Business, making manufacturing Britain’s key productivity and innovation engine.

Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, also spoke: “The future of job creation in this country, which means financial security for working people and their families, requires us to be in the single market, and yet leaving the single market is sole economic policy the Leave campaign has committee to.”

All of us speaking at this event have indeed become very concerned that the Leave campaign want to leave the single market, but believe that we can ‘retain access to it’. With our combined long term experience of operating within the Single Market, we don’t think this is realistic or achievable – and we want that message to be heard – that leaving the Single Market would be damaging for our industries future.

We however kept this conference very positive, as we want to see beyond the doom, gloom and scare stories of the current debate.

We, some of the leaders of our sector, very much look forward to a future of optimism and excitement. And let me explain why that is.

There are great things happening in manufacturing with huge opportunities in exciting technologies, like driverless cars; space technology, electric propulsion on aircraft just to mention a few.

This is where the jobs, skills and growth of the future for our industry are and we want to see more of that taking place here, in the UK.

However, the regulatory frameworks and research collaborations in these areas require scale and the big players – the EU, China and USA – are leading the way.  Outside of the EU, the UK will be less influential in those discussions and we will have to play by other people’s rules if we want to sell to them.

One such example is our brand new wind turbine factory in Hull, that will produce off-shore wind turbine blades and is creating 1000 new jobs.  We and the wider industry, are very keen to use this as a catalyst to build a much bigger industry in the Humber region and beyond. New engineering and service companies as part of our supply chain, and an innovation and skills centre creating technology of the future, that will enable the region to compete on a global stage and start exporting this technology at scale. We however can’t do this alone, we will need to collaborate with other EU countries, especially Germany and Denmark.  Inside the EU this is very easily possible.  Outside much less so.

So being very clear on this, I strongly believe that being outside the EU will count against the UK when investment decisions are made and we would miss out on these fantastic, future opportunities and the jobs and economic prosperity that will go with them.

And let me also explain why being a fully paid up member and inside the single market is so important, by using some practical examples.

Early in my career, as a factory manager, I remember the days when we used to have to put a different widget on every component that we shipped: a different one to Italy, a different one to France, a different one to Germany.

Today, working with other countries, through the Single Market, the UK plays a leading role in shaping industrial standards.  This has seen us reduce the number of standards in this area from 160,000 standards down to about 19,000 today.  In many cases 28 national and often protective regulations have been replaced with a single one.  Just imagine how this has enabled factories to become more efficient and hence bringing consumer prices down.

Creating this level playing field of standards has also had a real impact on everyday lives, but we tend to forget these.

EU Regulation and standards have massively improved the environmental impact of business and consumers here in the UK.

On a more personal level,  I remember how British beer was shut out of German markets because of the restrictive beer purity laws there.  That’s no longer the case because of Single Market rules.  I recall coming to the UK from Germany in 1974, when showers were not the norm in many British homes. I wanted to install a German made power shower but that wasn’t possible due to restrictive UK plumbing regulation.  Maybe you can remember the gravity fed hot water systems that were the British Standard back then, that meant our showers were a strong dribble at best. EU harmonisation of regulations brought power showers to the UK!

These may sound a little trivial, and sometimes amusing, but there were many, many other examples of such barriers to trade that have been systematically broken down by the Single Market.  Sure, this has created a bureaucracy, as these negotiations are complex and take a long time, and sometimes the EU has got a little too carried away with high profile examples of bananas and kettles, but we don’t hear of the 80% that have created a better and fairer EU.

To be clear I’m not advertising for lots more regulation. I have become very British and quite dislike it too, but the fact is, like it or not, it is just part of grown up responsible business.

So, my position from this event is clear: being part of the EU is good for the UK economy. We see no economic upside from leaving.  The EU is not perfect, but the benefits far outweigh the costs, and the notion that we can leave the single market but retain all of its benefits is delusional.

And in conclusion, our message yesterday was a simple one:  British manufacturing is stronger in the EU’s single market.

The truth about the EU Single Market

Communicating effectively about our EU membership is hard. It is a very complex issue, as a slight storm on my twitter account regarding the Single Market v. Free Trade Agreements (FTA’s) yesterday revealed.

I’d like to pick this issue up in more detail, which I feel is being misrepresented in this Brexit debate. The truth is that a Canada,  Albania or any other type of Free Trade Agreement is considerably inferior to the EU Single Market we are a member of. The Brexit campaign has now loudly expressed their wish to leave the latter, but has given no explanation of the risks this represents to our economy.

Allow me to explain the difference between an FTA and the Single Market using a very practical, but real example.

I came to the UK with my family from Germany in 1974. One year after the UK joined the EU and therefore the European Economic Community. Prior to this the UK, like most European and Global markets had worked to protect their markets through import tariffs and protective regulation. So there was no single market and no or very limited free trade between the UK and Europe.

We wanted to import the car we had owned in Germany, a lovely and reliable Opel Kadett. It however made no financial sense, because the import tariffs and numerous technical changes that would have needed to be made to the vehicle, would have cost more than the value of the vehicle itself. Our next option was to buy an Opel Kadett ready imported by the manufacturer to the UK. This however would also have over stretched our budget, because Opel had to pay import tariffs and the cost of carrying out all the technical modifications in their factory before exporting. So instead, we had no choice, like most British people at that time and bought a Morris Marina. As anyone who owned one of these will no doubt confirm, it was one of the worst examples of British design and innovation to come out of UK’s 1970’s industrial decline. I can remember more journeys in which the car broke down than making it without trouble to our destination. Certainly not the Opel we were used to!

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Introducing an FTA would have removed the import tariffs on the more reliable Opel we wanted. However the much larger cost both physically and from an administration point of view were the numerous required technical changes. And it is only the Single Market that can and has removed these ‘non-tariff trade barriers’. Put simply, an FTA alone, would not have allowed us import or buy the car we wanted in the UK. But the Single Market would have made that difference and today provides for that greater consumer choice at better prices.

The EU single market has successfully harmonised such regulations across the entire EU for automotive and numerous other industries. And it is still being worked on now, like the harmonisation of EU mobile phone charges recently demonstrated very visibly. Now, carrying out this harmonisation is very complex and takes a long time. Every nation naturally wanting to influence to ensure their own standards remain. But when achieved, we have the situation we largely have today. A Renault made in France is as accessible to the UK consumer as is a Toyota made in the UK. It is even now possible to buy British brewed beer in Germany that for a long time protective laws in Germany prevented. And the value for money, technology and innovation has massively improved for all in the EU, as opening, smartly regulating and standardising markets always does. Doubters at the beginning of creating this single market, were concerned it would mean the end of the last of British engineering industry. The truth is that the previous closed and protected market was killing the industry and the decline would have continued at pace, had we not joined the single market. Today, the UK’s automotive Industry can hold its head up high and we are exporting more cars than ever before – the EU and single market having been the enabler and not the barrier for this. An FTA with EU markets alone would not have achieved that.

It is true that sometimes EU regulators got carried away, we’ve all heard stories about bananas and cucumbers, and we must work to stop such nonsense, but to use those high profile yet minor issues and ignore the vast progress made over decades in breaking down thousands of protective practices, is plain irresponsible. And that is what leaving the single market would mean and no FTA can replace that.

In summary, when we are told that we can leave the Single Market but still have access and all the benefits of it, that is not true, as we would have no influence on the harmonisation of the market and we would increasingly be confronted with the non-tariff barriers as I describe above. And then there is another key reason I have not yet covered, which is that FTA’s provide no or very limited access to free trade of services. That is so for Albania’s and Canada’s FTA with the EU and even Switzerland’s very advanced deal under EFTA provides for no free trade on financial services.

The Brexit campaign arguments to leave the Single Market, simply do not stack up economically.