With a decision on Britain’s EU negotiations looming, should the events industry support or oppose Brexit? Nigel Markey, MD of beverage catering provider, Markey Ltd, gives his opinion.
To me, the question of whether Great Britain should leave the EU is like asking me whether London should secede from England, or if Milton Keynes should declare itself an independent city state – in other words, I can’t seriously entertain the idea.
From my perspective, for our UK-based company, the EU is where the business is.
We integrate the current coffee culture into a very vibrant European trade fair and congress industry, and we don’t want any barriers to trading with our close neighbours. The tradition of sitting down and talking business over a cup of good coffee represents 400 years of European economic history.
I accept that the EU, to the best of our knowledge, can appear to be an incredibly bureaucratic organisation that faces the almost impossible task of bringing together the needs of a continent into a single legislative process. I also accept that the EU has a reputation for being in thrall to global multinationals, and according to media claims it has established a long and slow-moving gravy train for the hundreds of thousands of European functionaries that work in Brussels and Strasbourg.
There’s no silver bullet to solve all the EU’s problems, and the UK needs to work from within the union to effect the changes that the UK needs most, whether that means reform of the CAP, a renegotiated rebate or scrapping European legislation stipulating acceptable degrees of bend in a banana.
Being able to work throughout the EU, with its harmonised employment, food standard and health & safety regulations, means that we can deploy our Baristi on coffee and juice bar services at any exhibition in Europe as easily as we can in London or Aberdeen.
A recent poll by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) showed that amongst its members in London, 55 per cent were in favour of remaining, with this figure dropping to 47 per cent nationally. This points to the fact that it’s the larger companies and multinationals who are most adamant that a ‘Brexit’ (British Exit from the EU) would be a commercial disaster.
Smaller enterprises are much more reticent about the advantages, especially the businesses that don’t depend on overseas trade. Small companies are more open to the argument that membership of the EU is resulting in an erosion of national sovereignty and is the source of ridiculous and restrictive laws.
The crucial thing to remember here is that it will be individual British citizens who will be voting in the referendum, not multinational corporations, and looking at the figures from the FSB, the result is hanging in the balance. If a Brexit is bad news for the multinationals and global corporations, then it will ultimately be bad news for all their contractors, subsidiaries and allied trades.
I may not be the biggest fan of the European project, and in fact I’ve grown more disillusioned with it than ever before, but I firmly believe that the only way forward is to stay in, rather than get out. Britain must be at the helm of Europe and not left bobbing in its wake.