One of the most influential and learned figures in the British European debate is Rodney Leach. In the 1990s, he helped lead those of his fellow businessmen who became convinced that the abolition of the pound would be a disaster. He was a moving spirit in Business for Sterling and then in the ‘No’ campaign against the euro. This did much to persuade Gordon Brown, as Chancellor, to ditch euro entry plans in 2004. The following year, Lord Leach set up Open Europe, and continues as its chairman to this day. It is the most trusted think tank for research and debate on all EU questions, and is incredibly useful for the media because of its daily press digests, which enable us to follow the debate across the entire Continent. Open Europe has always been Eurosceptic in the exact meaning of that word — not necessarily opposed, but questioning. Its first two directors went on to work for pro-EU politicians — Neil O’Brien, now an adviser to George Osborne, and Mats Persson, who now works for David Cameron on European issues. As its name suggests, it has always held, to quote Rodney’s statement at the head of its website, that Britain ‘can be successful either inside or outside the EU if it pursues free market and liberal economic policies’. Michael Gove, of Leave, and Alistair Darling, of Remain, have said how much, in this referendum campaign, they use Open Europe material. The think-tank’s policy is that it will have no group line on how to vote but that members of its board are free to express their personal views publicly, either way. Some already have. As the vote approached, many of us naturally wanted to know what Leach himself thought.
A good many Leave campaigners were suspicious that he had been suborned by Downing Street.