Tuesday, 8 March 2016


EU Referendum

By Amanda Vigar, Managing Partner, V&A Bell Brown LLP
At four months they begin to babble….” 

Why do I have the feeling that this may apply not just to babies, but to all of us come 23 June?  No wonder, this is the biggest decision the UK has faced since the early 70s when Ted Heath took us into the European free market allowing us, in theory, to do business more easily with our European neighbours than was previously the case.  Over 40 years later the EU has moved on and developed in ways few of us thought possible. 

Whether you’re currently an “In” or an “Out”, for the next four months the media is going to be full of conflicting views. Only one thing is for sure: the vote won’t be divided on party political grounds with right, left and, as far as I can currently tell, centre all backing different sides – including “dunno…”!!

As we saw in the Scottish Vote, there will no doubt be scaremongering from both sides.  

The personal attacks between people who used to rather more than rub shoulders on their respective benches in the Houses of Parliament have already started. We’ve already seen some very nasty and uncalled for rants emanating from some quarters - even without comments on sartorial elegance!

In the end we will all of us have just one, equally weighted, vote so we need to see through the morass of “facts” being bandied about by both sides.

One thing that is clear is that the European train will continue on whether the UK is In or Out.  

France and Germany have too much at stake to allow even the world’s 5th largest economy to derail that leviathan.  So the real choice is whether we accept that we have our ticket to travel and go wherever it takes us or whether we get off at the next station, become independent travellers, think about where we want to go and maybe change our route to suit what we want to do.  In truth both are somewhat scary options.

There is a lot of noise about the cost to us - both our contributions to the EU and time on red tape.  As a small business owner, I’m fully aware of how much time this takes up!  However, leaving the EU isn’t a panacea for this because, as if by magic, it may well be replaced with home-growth tape even if we can choose the colour of the stuff.

To date, the views of big businesses have dominated the news and it looks like the jury is out with fewer FTSE leaders being willing to say that they want to stay in than even five years ago.  I can’t see the remaining 26 countries stopping us selling products they need to them. 

Those selling into Europe will have to abide by the current regulations.  However, that’s not really any different from now as we have to meet rules to sell into the US and Japanese markets. 

That said, the UK still has a lot of clout and there could be real benefit in being able to explore all the various markets for our goods around the world without our neighbours tagging along and telling us the terms on which we do it.

Staying in might make it easier to find staff for certain roles (whether or not you run a Premier League football club) but we shouldn’t forget that we also have the Commonwealth and the rest of world to pick from and staying in disadvantages them in the job market because they have to pass higher hurdles.

So, over the next 4 months, all I would say is, to make your decision based on reality not fear and inaccuracy and make sure you use you vote. Whichever way the country decides, there is no going back as we’re unlikely to get the chance to decide again for a very long time!