‘Brexit’ refers to the pending referendum on the UK’s current EU membership and is the way you should address the potential British exit if you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about. A number of political bodies including the newly re-elected Conservatives and controversial UKIP party are backing the referendum and receiving support from a percentage of business leaders. However, there are a number of business owners, particularly those running small enterprises, which are contesting the whole idea.
Where we’re at right now
An in/out referendum decision is set to be made before the end of 2017 but in the meantime, there is sure to be some locking of horns and a whole host of scaremongering speculation. Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon says that Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland should be able to vote independently and an ‘out’ vote should only be decided if there is a unanimous UK vote. This is an example of the debate that lies ahead but when all is said and done and the political big-wigs have finished shouting over each other, what is left for the owners of small businesses back on ground level?
This year’s general election and the recent Scottish referendum has cultivated a habit of instability and unease for business owners across the country and a potential Brexit is doing nothing towards diffusing this. There is a widespread uncertainty about what is on the horizon for the UK economy and its growing network of small and medium enterprises. Entrepreneurs are finding it near-on impossible to plan ahead, which as we’re sure you probably know, is a fundamental necessity when running a business. This constant state of flux certainly isn’t conducive to productivity and a Brexit could throw a real spanner in the works but is it for the better or worse?
Yeah, let’s do this!
Concerns about immigration and the global competitiveness of British businesses have been highlighted as some of the main contributing factors that are driving supporters towards an out vote. Eurosceptics are optimistic and see the potential change as a positive development that would give Britain the autonomy and wiggle room it needs to become its own commercial entity. Leaving the European Union could give Britain and its businesses a chance to cut red tape, reverse immigration, amend health & safety regulations and save billions in costly taxes.
Those on this end of the political tug-o-war don’t believe that it would be the drastic and threatening change that others are building it up to be. For them, Brexit could be the vehicle needed to bring about a positive reformation of employment laws and liberating capital flow freedom. This could be chance for the country to work towards a more harmonious relationship between employer and employee in a disruptive environment which currently makes it difficult to mould the working week and eliminate underperforming staff. Freedom from the rules and constraints of EU law would help Britain prosper according to Eurosceptics.
We shall not be moved
At the other end of the spectrum, there are just as many business owners shaking in their boots at the mere thought of the period of uncertainty that would surely follow such a substantial decision. One of the main concerns is the suspected job loss that would come if we should choose to cut ties with the 500million-strong consumer market that EU membership currently grants us access to. Nick Clegg once claimed that around 3million jobs depend on this membership and this is one of the issues that is sticking in protesters’ throats.
Tony Attard, chief executive of £15million textile production company Panaz, which employs over 100 people, is amongst those business owners who are totally against the EU withdrawal. He said: “We export about £3million of goods a year to Europe – it’s an incredibly important market for us. If we pulled out and I lost £2million of business, it would cost jobs without a doubt. It’s a big threat.”
As well as significant job loss, it is believed by some that a Brexit could also weaken vital trade and investment for the UK. The EU has been the main trading partner for the country and in 2013, had trade in more than £400billion, which accounted for over half of the UK’s total goods and services trade. A vast proportion of UK goods are currently manufactured in Europe and severing this commercial connection would put the kibosh on small businesses looking to expand into overseas operations and also deter any foreign investment.
As a member of the EU, Britain benefits from economic integrations which help to increase productivity and open access to resources across the states. Not having this economic alliance would undoubtedly spark justified uncertainty and instability. Eurosceptics are saying that British businesses could still trade with member states if bilateral treaties were implemented but then this process would require time and money that the country doesn’t really have to waste.
So what are your thoughts on a potential Brexit? We would love to hear your opinion whether you’re rooting for the referendum or hoping the whole thing was just a horrible nightmare.
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