British businesses back Brexit as they warn rejoining EU is a ‘joke’ | Politics | News


Some small and medium sized business owners have warned against UK re-joining the European Union with one businessman saying Britain remains better off outside the bloc.

YouGov recently released poll results which showed some Britons want a referendum on the UK re-joining the EU within a decade, though only a minority want to see such a vote this year. asked firms across the UK whether re-joining would benefit British businesses. Many are set against the move due to the disruption it would cause, the possibility of different terms on the table and EU bureaucracy.

Tom Anderson, CEO at Hummingbird Agency in Peterborough, said: “Re-joining the EU – you must be joking? It’s tempting to think the grass is always greener on the other side.”

Mr Anderson added: “While some argue businesses thrived during our time in the EU, let’s not forget the bureaucratic red tape and the constraints on forging new trade deals outside the bloc.

“Some of the latest trade deals we’ve been doing are really exciting and will drive innovation and opportunity for those who seek it.

“The UK, as a sovereign nation, now has the agility to adapt to global economic shifts, something that a large entity like the EU might struggle with. Moreover, our unique identity and brand as ‘Britain’ is a huge selling point in global markets.

“While there are undeniable short-term challenges, the long-term potential outside the EU might just be the competitive edge businesses need.”

UK trade statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show goods exports to the EU totalled £13.3billion in January 2020 with £14.5bn worth of goods exported to non-EU countries.

By June 2023, goods exports to the bloc amounted to £14.8bn with the rest of the world totalling £16.7bn, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the ONS.

Imports from the EU have risen sharply with £20bn worth of goods imported in January 2020 rising to £27.5bn in June. This compares to £18.2bn of imports from non-EU countries in January 2020 increasing to £19.9bn in June, the ONS figures show.

Lucinda O’Reilly, Director at The International Trade Consultancy, told “I assume the people who think rejoining the EU is a panacea for our current economic, labour and immigration problems believe we’ll go back in on the same terms as when we left. We won’t.

“The EU will undoubtedly insist on higher financial contributions and more favourable terms for EU citizens wishing to live and work in the UK.

“Having gone through the pain of adapting to trade with the EU under the terms of the UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement it would be madness to reverse it so soon.

“Outside of Europe, we are joining CPTPP which is a great opportunity, we’ve signed several trade agreements with US states and we’re a long way down the road to negotiating an agreement with India. These are all things the EU would like to have done but can’t because they’re hamstrung by the number of conflicting interests they have to reconcile.

“I’m not saying we should never rejoin but within 10 years is too soon, 15 – 20 will give us the information we need to evaluate properly.”

Describing himself as a “strong” Remain campaigner before the Brexit vote, Keith Budden, Managing Director at Ensurety, said he is also a democrat so he accepted the majority decision.

He added: “I think even the strongest Brexit supporter would agree there are many areas where the promised Brexit bonus has not materialised, although I accept some of that is down to the pandemic delaying/suspending normal life.

“Nonetheless, I personally don’t, and I don’t sense that any of my business contacts do either, have any desire for us to rejoin the EU. Why? because we have just been through years of business and the economy being held back by red tape and bureaucratic adjustment.

“If we go back in, it’s not going to be a case of ‘Welcome Back’ and everything instantly goes back to pre-Brexit days – we will be the new kid on the block, and there will be lots of new changes for business to navigate. Why oh why would anyone want that?”

Other business owners suggested re-joining would boost Britain’s economy by removing friction at the border and reduce paperwork.

Sam Kirk, Managing Director at J-Flex Rubber Products in Retford, Notts, said rejoining would eliminate trade barriers which have caused some businesses to put a halt on exports completely.

Mr Kirk added: “Simplifying documentation requirements and customs procedures would remove additional time and costs, whilst an easing of travel and immigration rules could potentially alleviate the ongoing staffing and skills crises that so many are faced with at present.”

Samuel Mather-Holgate, Independent Financial Advisor at Mather and Murray Financial, told re-joining would be “a massive shot in the arm for British business”.

He added: “Since the referendum result, the UK economy has been on valium, ponderously staggering about and not getting very far. The trade deals that have been struck are mostly carbon copies of what we had in the EU and those additional agreements make up a gravely insignificant proportion of our international trade.”

But he said such a vote would not happen because there is no political will for it.

David Robinson, co-founder of Wildcat Law, said one thing Brexit delivered was copious quantities of paperwork.

He said: “Businesses of all sizes up and down the country now have to fill in, often numerous, forms for transactions that were previously simple.

“This has introduced costs in terms of time to complete the paperwork but also uncertainty resulting in an increased need for legal advice and even more costs.”

Laura-Jayne Grey, owner of Small Dog Silver, said: “As a small jeweller I have had to stop sending to the majority of the EU since Brexit.

“Due to not being part of a reciprocal agreement for hallmarking it’s made selling to my closest market almost impossible. Rejoining would mean that I can not only restart sales, but also easily visit mainland Europe for trade shows.”

Leonor Calaça, owner and operator at Edinburgh based knitting supplies firm Eleanor Shadow, said: “Leavers kept claiming EU rules were stopping us from doing better business abroad. All I’ve seen so far is more red tape and not being able to sell to EU customers as easily as before, plus my materials increasing in price because they’re now classed as imports.

“Is this ‘taking back control’?”

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