Businesses did battle over Britain’s potential EU exit yesterday, with a war of words erupting about the repercussions of a Brexit or staying put.
Gina Miller, founding partner of SCMDirect.com, kicked off the exchange by warning that the City faces “disaster” if the UK is forced to renegotiate. She said: “It will take years of negotiations, during which Britain, and the City, will be stuck in a limbo.”
The event at Guildhall was hosted by Business for Britain, the City of London Corporation and Business for New Europe.
Miller added: “One of one is weaker than one of 28. It’s a fallacy that we would be stronger on our own.”
She also pointed to the skills shortage and said, speaking as a Fintech business, Britain is “struggling to provide the skilled workers we need to remain at the centre of the financial world. The coders, the hackers. We rely on a mobile marketplace with Europe, and would be very much impacted by leaving.”
Serial entrepreneur Luke Johnson, of Risk Capital Management, was more upbeat about the effect of a Brexit, stating: “The City will remain great, no matter what.”
While Johnson said that with significant negotiations he’d stay in the EU, he pointed to the “countless anti-City measures” – from bonus-caps and short-selling regulations to the Common Agricultural Policy – as things he’d be happy to see left behind. He also pointed to “all the doom-and-gloom scare-mongering when we didn’t join the Euro... and it never happened.”
Tim Skeet, director of the International Capital Markets Association, warned that the French will “eat our croissants and the Germans will steal our sausage” in the event of Brexit. He also lauded the City for having been “pragmatic” in the face of EU regulations.
Andrew Lilico from Europe Economics argued if the UK went it alone, the country could attract new trading partners, such as Switzerland, Norway and Denmark, and create a new trading partnership.