The looming decision on Brexit…. Please can we stay friends

Unless you have been on the other side of the world for the past few months you will be fully aware that the UK will vote on their European fate come June. It is a divisive issue for many and so many people have asked for the OFF3R line on Brexit…… Well, not really at all actually but I will give one anyway.

This view is largely based on the impact that Brexit may have on our burgeoning industry but also on a broader socio-economic level as well. It is my opinion on the topic and I am sure many of you out there will have a different view. I would love to hear any of those views so please get in touch on our social channels if you would like to join the debate. I would also ask any of you to respect other people’s views on these matters, there is no wrong or right…. just personal opinions, that’s democracy folks.

Brexit and startups

Running a small businesses is hard work, really hard work in fact. A split from our European neighbours will make it harder to do business for startups. The ability to access an enormous pool of potential staff from all over Europe is so valuable and we have been able to benefit from this freedom. It is not yet clear how Brexit would impact the free movement of workers in to the UK from the EU. In a worst case scenario we would see a dramatic reduction in the pool of workers that startups could tap in to. This will hurt small businesses. A more likely scenario if we were to leave the EU would be where workers, particularly skilled workers, would still be relatively free to work in the UK. This argument needs to be clarified before we go to the polls as it will be a major factor for many small business owners.

It’s not just on the employment front where the risks lie for small businesses. The ability to trade freely has to be protected. The impact of this really depends on the industry that the small business operates in but ultimately any change that will make it harder to trade with our continental friends is going to hurt us. Free trade with Europe has been something that we have all been working towards for centuries. It helps young businesses grow, it builds business relationships that last a lifetime and it improves the quality of competition in our markets, thus increasing quality for consumers. I really cannot see why anyone would want to reverse this process from a purely business standpoint.

Brexit and investment

So what about the world of alternative finance and investment? Well again it feels like it would be a major own goal to head for Brexit. Current regulation allows for relatively free direct investment in European companies and financial products and vice versa. This freedom of investment opens up huge potential for investors to explore opportunities across Europe. Even more telling for UK businesses would be any potential roadblocks to receiving investment from the EU. This could have a major impact on UK based companies relying on EU investment. The leave campaign need to clarify exactly what impact leaving the EU would have on investment opportunities both outbound and inbound. Will the UK still remain part of the EEA similar to the Norway model?

At the very least there will be some considerable market shocks to deal with as businesses and investors re-adjust to the new world of the UK as an isolated loner. Direct investment from countries outside of the EU will almost certainly decrease as an isolated UK is less attractive than a fully integrated European economic powerhouse. The ripple from a Brexit will be felt all over the globe and these ripples could easily turn to waves given the fragility of the interconnected markets we now operate in. The last thing we all need right now is a return to a financial crisis, this time not caused by a credit crunch but rather by scaremongering politicians.

The final point on Brexit and investment is closer to home for our industry. Current EU regulations allow regulated businesses to passport their permissions to operate in other European countries with relative ease. This opens up markets for this exciting new industry as well as the traditional investment markets. A Brexit presents a major risk to the industry depending on the negotiated position. I expect that if we did leave the EU then this regulation link could be protected in some way but why take that risk at all.

The leave campaign need to quickly clarify their position on a number of the business issues as it all feels a little too knee-jerk at the moment. There doesn’t appear to be any real thought about the impact on businesses of a Brexit and this creates a huge amount of risk for small businesses in particular.

Brexit and me

So those are some of the more business driven reasons for opposing Brexit. What about for me personally. I must stress I clearly can’t speak for the whole OFF3R team on this one, this is just me and my leanings on the topic.

I am an Englishman (part Scottish too for that matter), a Brit and I am certainly a European. I share the values of friends I have all over Europe. I have had some of the most incredible experiences of my life in Europe. Europe is part of me and my history and it is part of all of your history too I imagine. Of course leaving the EU doesn’t mean that the above is no longer true but in a world that is still littered by conflict we should do all that we can to keep our European neighbours as close as possible. The European history books detail war after war between European nations and none more deadly than the two world wars of the 20th Century. And here is the main factor for me when it comes to this debate….. the EU reduces the risk of European conflict. Winston Churchill stated in Zurich in 1946 that;

“We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living.”

I do not agree that a united states of Europe is necessary but I do strongly believe that the sentiment behind this statement still holds true. We cannot afford to fall back in to a world where blood is spilt on the soils of Europe by the major powers of the Western World and the EU keeps that risk further from a reality.

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