As Chief Executive of the NAPIT Group, a national organisation whose members are heavily invested in the UK economy, the upcoming EU Referendum is a highly important and intriguing issue with many factors to consider.
To delve into the subject further, we bring you a guest blog from the new and improved NAPIT Legal service. Legal Consultant, Richard Brackenbury, shares his thoughts…
If you’re expecting any flash of inspiration on Brexit from a Nottingham-based solicitor on one of the biggest issues of our generation, you will be disappointed! I had seen myself as part of the centre ground in the Brexit debate pulling out what remains of my hair waiting for sensible debate on the issue. In reality, I am about to become bald very quickly. So, a few personal thoughts.
I was initially undecided. I started to come off the fence reading a comment from a Brexiteer claiming that as England had managed to win two World Wars, it could stand being “independent” now. I nearly put my electronic pen to paper to point out that the USA’s economic and then military support together with Russian involvement might just have had something to do with it. I didn’t bother. But the fact that such a view clearly has a lot of support amongst the leavers worried me. And then I thought some more.
Having been self-employed developing an SME for most of my working life, I have “lived” the direct link between the economy and my business through many separate crises – most notably 2008. We all know SMEs are highly susceptible to changes in confidence whether from business or private customers. And, I have heard no one argue rationally that a “leave” vote will not lead to a period of uncertainty at best. That for me is the clincher. Add to that I have heard no credible economic view to contradict the Bank of England, the IMF, the World Bank and the majority of business leaders, then the economic case becomes compelling.
Of course, like all business owners, I’m concerned about red tape. I do not like bureaucracy. However, I’m old enough to remember when Britain was the “sick man of Europe” but that was at a time when no-one could blame the EU. Add to that the fact that Britain’s economy is stronger than most in Europe whilst we are actually part of the EU (a fact put down to our freer labour market); I begin to wonder what the fuss is about.
The same issues affect my thinking on immigration. I heard a sensible independent commentator saying that EU immigration was in fact much higher than expected but, more of those EU immigrants proportionately are in work than us “natives.” The reason we’re so popular is the economy and the jobs it offers rather than the state benefits. It’s common place about the jobs which such “immigrants” will take on rather than the indigenous population.
Then I thought, how many construction firms, particularly in the south of England, can now manage without EU staff? And what do we think will happen to construction wage rates if the EU labour tap is turned off? Like it or not, we live in a connected world and we just don’t have the option of pulling up the drawbridge. And, as part of a larger world grouping, we stand a chance of influencing the forces that bring about non EU mass migration. Alone, we have much less chance of doing so.
You would expect me as a lawyer to be concerned about sovereignty. You would be right. But, at the level at which I have operated over my working life, the influence of the EU on legislation has usually been very positive. Think of equality laws, employment, health and safety – I’m pretty confident the strides in Society’s attitudes would not have been anything like as great without EU influence.
So, is the EU perfect? Of course it’s not. Do I think there’s an inflated, over paid bureaucracy in Brussels that needs to have its wings clipped? Yes I do. And it seems, so does quite a lot of Northern Europe. But I’m also convinced that walking away from the progress we’ve made as an economy will create huge uncertainty and that uncertainty is always bad news. So, is it worth cutting ourselves adrift? No.
The views expressed in the above article are the writer’s opinions only and do not represent the views of NAPIT as an organisation.