Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce News

EU Debate: Reasons to vote Remain

21 Jun 2016 by

The business case for a vote to Remain in the EU referendum was set out by Ben Pindar (Northern Lights PR) and Richard Corbett (Labour MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber).

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Ben Pindar:

Northern Lights is a small PR and marketing agency, but we trade globally and the freedom of EU membership has made it easier for us to do that.

The UK is one of the most globalised economies in the world and we should be extremely proud of that. For more than two centuries, British businesses have embraced overseas opportunities and have shaped the world we know today by trading expertise with every corner of the globe.

Today we stand on a precipice of a vote that says we’re not interested in that anymore – potentially we face a giant leap backwards. Free trade with the EU fuels our economy – almost 50% of all our trade goes to the EU – that’s £240bn.

But it goes much further than that – by being part of the EU, we also get to trade freely with a wealth of other countries under a number of other global agreements like the Pacific Alliance - which gives us a gateway to Latin America. By voting to leave we walk away from a world of opportunities and will simply price ourselves out of the market – in some of the countries we currently trade freely with, import duties would be 60% overnight.

Leave will tell you that we can negotiate new and better deals – at best that will take years and during that time the rest of Europe will be free to seize those opportunities while we stagnate and barter on the sidelines. The reality is that we’ll struggle to negotiate a better deal because we’re not that important anymore.

The UK’s power on the global stage is waning and other economies are overtaking us – we need to be part of the EU to maintain connections with the world and retain our voice.

The UK accounts for 3% of EU trade and the only countries where we are a major import partner are Ireland and Cyprus – we’re not the number one trade partner of anybody in the EU?. It’s also not in the EU’s interest to negotiate a decent deal with us – they have to play hardball to prevent others from following the UK down the same route.

That leaves us with having to pay to be part of the EU and following their rules – exactly the same situation as now, but we don’t get a say on the rules that affect us...

Investment is also a major issue – we’re already falling behind Europe in the race to create an international hub at Heathrow. Soon global investors will land in Europe and then have to get another flight to the UK. There will be zero incentive to invest here if they also have to pay more for the privilege.

Immigration is also another issue – Leave argues they will restrict migration. That raises three questions – who will fill the jobs we have and help the economy to grow, what will happen to the EU nationals who already have important roles here and what happens to the British people who want to seize new opportunities across Europe?

Migration makes us richer and strengthens our economy by delivering much-needed skills. It is the lifeblood of our economy and I don’t believe migration will change if we leave – free movement of people will be at the heart of any new deal.

Unsurprisingly, every major economic institution has warned the UK economy will suffer. But of course, the Leave experts somewhat ironically state that the experts always get it wrong.

The truth is, no-one knows what a post-Brexit landscape looks like. We face years of turmoil while new agreements are thrashed out and inevitably our economy will suffer. With 50% of our goods coming from the EU, prices will rise but consumers will have less money in their pockets.

Business hates uncertainty and Brexit breeds uncertainty. We’re already seeing Brexit clauses built into new investment and business deals to prepare for the potential collapse of key UK markets.

So, in conclusion, this is about fewer trade opportunities, little incentive for global players to negotiate, a weaker investment offer, less money in our pockets and no clue what happens post-Brexit.

A vote to leave is a leap of faith – but who are we putting our faith in?