March 15, 2016

Does Business Speak With (Almost) One Voice?

Business Eye, March 2016

I can only speak for my company, but I am sure many business owners will look at the issue as I do, whilst others will see different factors affecting them. In simple terms, for Northern Ireland to get wealthier, we need to bring money in from outside. That can only come from a combination of export sales and foreign direct investment. The jobs provided by Core Systems in North Belfast are sustained by selling goods and services to overseas customers (99% export sales). We supply customers in Australia and America but Europe is a key market for us and we have ambition and opportunity to grow further.

Being in the EU gives us access to one of the largest and richest markets on the planet but, possibly more importantly, it also lets us draw our employees from across twenty eight countries with minimal bureaucratic difficulties associated with their employment. Half of our management team comes from the Republic of Ireland which, under the current arrangements, is very straightforward. Would that continue to be the case if the UK were to leave the EU? – it’s not clear and no one who advocates the UK leaving is in a position to give a categorical answer. By way of prior experience, we previously sought to recruit a specialist from outside the EU, but the process took many months and was fraught with difficulties we just don’t face when employing EU nationals. The EU certainly has flaws; that are well known to most business people, and it has many challenges ahead of it, but our leaving will not change them.

In making a choice between the options facing us, I am conscious that the “Remain” lobby has the easier task of pointing to the existing settlement and, perhaps, offering to make some improvements. By contrast, the “Leave” lobby cannot bind successor governments, so it has to rely on predictions of what might be achieved through multi-lateral negotiations and what the costs and benefits might be. For my business, the certainty associated with remaining in the EU is more compelling than the uncertainties of leaving.

Read more here: Does Business Speak With (Almost) One Voice?