There have been moments over the last 100 days of EU Referendum campaigning where I have felt like screaming at the television over some of the infantile behaviour of many of our senior, and apparently well educated, politicians. BREXIT is not a game but the ‘he said, she said’ playground bickering on our screens is exhausting and unappealing. Where’s the real debate, where’s the responsibility?
As an ethnic minority (I have to tick the White Irish box on ethnicity forms!) economic migrant (from Ireland and Indonesia), I have benefited enormously from being part of the EU. I’ve had the privilege to be educated in Ireland, Indonesia and the UK and since 2003 have built three businesses (Boyden, Alium and now Hemming Robeson) in the UK. My current team in its entirety is a result of UK immigration policy over the last century and our clients are either selling their products globally or have large international foot prints physically or by way of their supply-chain.
Our politicians’ obsession about immigration demonstrates their complete incompetence when it comes to economics but reinforces the ‘must win at all costs’ mentality of both campaigns. Do we really believe we can continue to sustain our position as the world’s 5th largest economy without a continual flow of human resource both skilled and unskilled from all over the world? Immigration is a significant ingredient in any vibrant and successful economy. Our NHS for example would be on its knees without the nurses, doctors and support staff from all over the world. In fact there are few industries I can think of that don't benefit from the rich mix of resources available to them.
The idea that we will be better off in the short to medium term just doesn't wash. So many respected sources have now dismissed the various spurious claims around the cost of our participation in the EU Project. Whilst everyone is focusing on the robustness of car and champagne sales they are failing to realise the potential short term devastation to many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and in particular support service and professional service companies, certainly in the short term.
Since the golden days of c.1995 to 2007, when it was virtually impossible for these industries not to see annual double digit growth, the new norm post the financial crisis and subsequent recession is weaker balance sheets, tighter cash flows, slower paced growth. For that to sustain the donkey punch that leaving the EU would give is arguably impossible. There is no post-EU six month fix so perhaps think more along the lines of a six year slog.
Whilst the idea of freedom from the bureaucracy of Brussels seems so appealing and to many the holy grail, it is difficult to see how we would be any better off outside the EU.
There is something rather unpleasant about the Leave campaign’s rhetoric. It’s narrow minded, it’s divisive and certainly at times xenophobic. Focusing on taking back control of our laws, our borders and our governance. There will be no less red tape. In fact there is a strong argument to suggest there could be even more for those trading internationally.
And lest we forget the reason behind the whole EU Project in the first place. The peace we take for granted came at an almighty cost including the loss of my Great Uncle who died as a Bomber Pilot over Greece. The belief by so many that somehow we are safe from future conflict is misplaced. Recent governments have ripped the heart out of our armed services capability, leaving us utterly reliant on our European and NATO partners to defend our shores.
So Remain’s campaign of fear, however negative, is possibly the only way to drive home the true impact voting to leave the EU will have on all segments of UK society. Let us hope that the bickering stops and through the fog of claim and counter claim we are able to approach the ballot box with clear heads on June 23rd to vote to remain within the European Union.
By Nick Robeson, Founder of Hemming Robeson, Executive level Interim Management