I always assumed that if we had a referendum on the European Union, I would vote to stay in. I totally felt at ease going to industry events in Paris or Malmo. I bought into the notion that the EU creates jobs and strengthens our economy. I liked being able to go to France and come back with as much booze as I could fit in the car. But since the start of the debate the more I thought about it and the more I examined the impact the EU had on my business, the more I became convinced that Britain should leave.
A customs union designed to make life and commerce for its members easier and safer is clearly a great idea. If it did either of these things I would be a big supporter but it doesn’t. It makes life harder, trading inside the EU more difficult and we have to pay a lot of money for it to make our life harder and trading more difficult.
The EU has taken a bit of a downer on digital businesses in particular. It makes the assumption that we are all super big mega corps like Facebook and Microsoft so we are increasingly burdened with rules that are hard to implement and at best pointless. A great example is the legislation on cookies…really is forcing companies to put cookie warnings up and users to click a button making life better? Changes to the VAT laws are another example, we and 460,000 other SMEs in the UK are now affected by a rule that requires us to charge and account for VAT in each of the 28 member states where we sell to, rather than just the one we sell from. This is an admin nightmare and has stopped us selling direct to EU consumers. Right now it is actively easier for us to trade with non EU customers from the USA. What sort of customs union makes you pay a large membership fee to actively impede you trading with the other members?
Those are two small issues but they are part of many, looking further into it these types of regulations across all business sectors in the UK are costing the UK economy over £600 million every week. This is despite the fact that only 6% of UK firms actually export to the EU. It’s not just regulation. By giving away our ability to negotiate trade deals with other countries, we miss out on opportunities to secure relationships in China, India and other emerging markets, markets that are much more lucrative than Europe and that culturally we have a closer affinity to.
The truth is we don’t need to be part of the EU to have all of the things that make an economy successful. We have some of the most creative and talented people anywhere in the world, we have a language that is spoken by billions of people and we have the fifth largest economy in the world. None of that is because of the EU. Outside the EU Britain would be like any other country – free to negotiate our own trade arrangements but also being in control of the laws we pass. We could keep those sensible regulations and reject those that aren’t, saving British businesses millions of pounds a week.
I also think we need to end the weird half in half out position we have found ourselves in. Having opted out of arguably two of the most worthwhile aspects of the EU (the Euro and borderless travel) we are on the fringes of the club already, we really should be fully in or fully out. We kept out of them for pretty sound reasons in the end but the same reason for staying out of the Euro: it’s expensive, limits our sovereignty and exposes us to risk really can be applied to the rest of the EU. My best analogy for the whole package is it is like a house insurance policy that you pay a huge premium for but never pays out when you need it. After a while you begin to ask yourself “What’s the point of keeping it?”.
The referendum on Thursday 23rd June is a choice between staying a half committed member of an expensive club that makes our lives slightly worse, or re-joining the rest of the world and succeeding as an independent nation. Right now I will be voting for the second option and voting to leave the EU.
Ewan Lamont CEO Legendary Games