The Brexit referendum on the future of the UK’s membership on the EU is a pivotal moment for the country. We asked two leading UK entrepreneurs to make the case for or against remaining a member of the EU.
Debbie Wosskow is the CEO of Love Home Swap
The European Union isn’t perfect; but it is safe to say that the positives of being in — and the opportunities presented by a Digital Single Market — are enough for UK technology companies to vote to remain in the EU in June.
One of the largest benefits of staying in is free movement. Many companies driven by individual participation, such as my own business, Love Home Swap, or Hassle.com and BlaBlaCar, benefit from being able to freely do business in the EU and easily access the 500 million consumers within Europe.
Access to talent is another reason to remain in. Being part of the EU gives us the ability to recruit the brightest people here and across Europe.
Brexit would bring an inevitable reduction of overseas skills, which could lead to staff shortages and also remove the knowledge and inspiration up-and-coming British tech start-ups get from working day-to-day with European business and developer talent.
Outside of the existing benefits you also have the potential opportunities presented by a European Digital Single Market.
The Digital Single Market has been identified by the European Commission as one of its major priorities; its ambitious strategy holds many benefits for both businesses and consumers and could boost EU GDP by over £300 billion.
Jobs And Economy At Risk
For businesses it will promote innovation and create thousands of new jobs. For consumers it will bring more protections for online shoppers, improvements in broadband internet infrastructure and cheaper prices through easier access to a larger variety of products and services.
Finally, the pure shock of leaving the EU would be hugely damaging.
According to a recent report commissioned by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), a vote to leave would have “negative echoes” lasting many years and could cost the country £100 billion and nearly one million jobs. The business lobby group’s report said the cost could be as much as 5% of GDP and 950,000 jobs by 2020.
The UK is currently the best place in Europe to launch and grow a business; leaving the European Union will undoubtedly undermine the ability of Britain’s entrepreneurs to start up, innovate, and grow.
Of course the EU has its drawbacks but rather than cutting ourselves off from the opportunities it offers, it is better to be on the inside helping shape the rules of this market, instead of just being subject to them.
Brexit is just simply not worth the risk.
Nick Halstead is the CEO of Cognitive Logic
People say entrepreneurs are all about taking risks. I disagree; it’s actually about calculated risk. Doing nothing is a risk; if I don’t start a business or take a job then I am pretty sure I won’t make any money. If I want to expand my business then I need to hire staff, which in itself is full of risk: will they perform? Will they leave in six months’ time? Will they stab me in the back and try and take over the company (this has happened to me)?
So when I think about the EU debate I look at the risks of staying alongside the risks of an exit alongside the rewards. Not voting to leave is to not do anything; it’s to not start a business, it’s to not take that job, it’s to say, “no I don’t want anything better.”
Our membership of the EU is already ‘non-standard’; we are not part of the Schengen zone, we get a huge rebate and lastly of course we don’t have the Euro. In response to any argument of what else we would like to change I say we already are different and it’s just a matter of negotiation (like the rebate) to get what else we want.
What do I want?
I want to continue our free trade agreement and control over our immigration policy.
Let’s talk immigration first — and before anyone accuses me of racism or any other slur that the pro-EU camp throws at anyone who would dare to think differently, remember I am the founder of several companies that have a hugely rich, diverse cultural makeup — we have staff from every part of the world (including the EU).
Tap Into The World
The world — that’s the funny part. The pro-EU lobby also throws the “small islander” accusation but being part of the EU is actually “thinking small” and being protectionist. It is very hard to recruit from outside of the EU and that makes us hugely uncompetitive.
Several years back I came across an amazing Japanese data scientist. We needed someone who knew Japanese to help us build new sentiment analysis in that language, but he was one month from being kicked out of the country after finishing his Masters. To hire him I need to firstly prove that I have attempted to find someone from within the UK for seven weeks, starting with advertising in the Job Centre. I’m not sure about you but how many Japanese data scientists have you seen queuing up at the Job Centre recently?
I want to tap into the world. My companies trade all around the world but my ability to recruit and be competitive about building a world-class workforce is crippled by the EU. And for anyone who wants to downplay this, your workforce is 100% of your business. The thing that makes you special is your staff.
I believe an EU exit (along with many other advantages) will allow us to put in place a new immigration policy that allows people in on the basis of our needs to build a more competitive country.