You’d have to be dead in a ditch not to know of the political maelstrom that is sweeping the country in the name of Brexit. With shadowy Downing Street figures pulling the strings. Conservative heavyweights have toppled like dominoes, and while the pound has tanked in response to Boris Johnson’s renewed commitment to leaving, so the destructive power of Brexit is clear to see. But, putting aside the controversial and potentially catastrophic no-deal scenario, which neither the markets nor the ministers really like, if a deal could be struck, could there be a plus side to walking away from the EU?
Whether you believed the bus or the leaflet, a quick recap of the main arguments of Leave vs Remain were – and still are – very polarised, and remain aligned to the political right and left respectively; sovereignty versus unity, independence vs security, international markets vs EU free trade. But what is clear is that EU bureaucracy, and some of its ridiculous red tape that has made the decisive decision for some voters, for whom Brexit could bring some real business boons.
WONKY BANANAS NO MORE
The EU is infamous for its legislation and red-tape, which ranges from the reasonable to the ridiculous; putting aside misshapen bananas, did you know you can’t eat a pet horse, but you can eat any other kind of horse? Or that a child under eight should not blow up a balloon without adult supervision? But aside from making great headlines, it can prove frustrating, prohibitively costly, and sometimes simply downright unfair, especially for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) who are forced into following punitive legislation that means a hairdresser in Glasgow must follow the same diktats as their equivalent in Poland. For businesses who are not exporting across borders, the relative freedoms to run your business as you see fit have been removed and replaced instead with a uniformity that some rightly consider stifling.
And remember – regulations cost money. A survey by real-time analysis platform, Open Europe, cited that just 93 of the current EU regulations cost UK business a staggering £31 billion, money that could invariably be spent much better elsewhere, whether on people, infrastructure, training or research.
DAVID VS GOLIATH
While the EU may work well for larger businesses, for whom the easy movement of people, goods and services is a definite plus, again it’s SMEs who are subject to fewer positives from that potential – and it’s SMEs who make up Britain’s ‘business backbone.’ A recent YouGov poll showed that while big businesses voted overwhelmingly in favour of remain by 93% to 7%, smaller businesses were split more evenly at 47% to 42%. Issues such as the Customs Union, viewed by some as a protectionist racket which suppresses free trade, are sources of strong feeling among businesses who feel that their ability to develop and grow is being frustrated by the EU’s mandatory rulings, which prevent much entrepreneurial autonomy, such as being able to strike preferential trade agreements. Dig a little deeper and the daily frustrations of being held up by Customs Union policy mean that a British exporter’s products would reach the EU mainland more slowly than a US exporter’s, while being able to operate under World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms would remove that delay entirely. In a service-led age, it’s these kinds of details that may make the difference between business and bankruptcy.
THE WIDER WORLD
The key factor, however, that could be the biggest boon of all of Brexit is that while the combined weight of 28 countries pulling together is an attractive option, the EU itself is not in great health. Ever since Greece’s government-debt crisis in 2009, the Euro has lost much of its pulling power, and having recently tumbled to a two-year low, has attracted the ire of US President Donald Trump, who complained that its weakness was putting US manufacturers at a disadvantage. And while the foresight of prior Prime Ministers kept us out of the Euro, we are still tied to a poorly performing trade bloc who, many people believe wishes to punish us for trying to leave, fearing that a flood of further members would follow. But our historical reputation as a country on the cutting-edge may very well mean that where we lead, others follow, finding much more fertile soil into which we can plough our initiative, entrepreneurship and financial future.