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Saying "Better Off Out" was once enough to kill a career, but now the taboo is shattered

By Mark Wallace 
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EU ExitIt was not so long ago that openly talking about leaving the EU was enough to make people think you were quite odd. Indeed, on launching the Freedom Association's Better Off Out campaign in 2006 I clearly remember several well-intentioned friends telling me that by doing so I was killing my campaigning career before it had started.

Needless to say, things are very different today. The latest public figure to declare support for leaving is Helena Morrissey - a successful businesswoman and a prominent campaigner for better representation of women on boards, as founder of the 30% Club.

Notably, in her Sunday Telegraph article she explains that the EU Commission's heavy-handed attempts to legislate for mandatory gender quotas for the boadroom was an important factor in leading her to become an outist. Any idea that Brussels is winning friends by seeking to piggyback on such campaigns is evidently flawed.

Westminster and the City too often run on a system of taboos and compulsory opinions - ideas which one absolutely must not hold or which one absolutely must sign up to. This is one reason why opposition to EU membership in Parliament and the senior levels of business has for so long lagged behind the levels of support seen in the wider electorate. 

Oddly enough, several of the friends who warned me about the dangers of publicly supporting a Brexit held the opinion themselves - they just didn't tell people. The fact is that a culture of taboos does not really ensure that no-one does or thinks supposedly forbidden things - it just means that the taboos are broken in private, lest anyone find out or disapprove. 

Once the social stigma is dispelled, as it now has been with regard to leaving the EU, it turns out that all sorts of people all hold an opinion which was once imagined to be fringe (some would say "fruitcake"). Where saying "Better Off Out" was once a supposed career-killer, the words are now uttered by extremely respectable people in the pages of national newspapers.

We should expect to see many more such declarations in the months and years ahead - and I suspect some will come from very surprising corners indeed.


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