Brexit: We're for Remain

Imbibe Editorial

21 June 2016

If there's one industry that you'd think would be in favour of staying in the EU, it's hospitality. Not least because such a huge percentage of people working in it have drifted into the UK from elsewhere, and because it relies so heavily on tourism.

Yet on Friday we received news of a survey of nearly 2,000 hospitality professionals which found that more of them – 49% - planned to vote to leave the EU, compared to 43% who wanted to stay in, and the remainder who had not yet made up their minds.

This would be eye-opening enough if the respondents largely thought they'd be better off going it alone. But the majority of them – whether voting to stay in or get out – all agreed that the UK would be worse off economically should we leave.

And this is where it started not to make sense for us.

Imbibe accepts that the EU is imperfect and would benefit from reform – not least a semi-regular auditing of its accounts; we agree that the free movement of people issue has caused problems – not least because it's been conflated with a refugee crisis from the Middle East and central Africa; and we also accept that the organisation can appear remote and opaque.

But we would suggest that these are problems that can be addressed if we are committed to addressing them, and that walking away to register our disapproval is an act of pique so childishly egotistical and self-destructive that it belongs in the schoolyard, not in high government.

Is it really sensible for us to be voting for something that we know will make us worse off? Most businesses are still struggling to get back where they were prior to the last recession. Voting out would pretty much guarantee a repeat of 2008, only with a bigger dip, and an even slower and more erratic recovery.

And that's before we even consider the impact that leaving the EU would have on VAT and import duties. In the case of Brexit, we'd lose the UK's access to free movement of goods, and while terms would need to be negotiated, it's likely that goods would be subject to customs formalities, introduction of costs in gaining customs clearance and also the increased risk of delay in transit.

In other words, that much-needed wine order might be held at the border while the necessary paperwork is stamped, and it will likely come with an increased price tag to boot.

So ask yourself this: Is your business so buoyantly healthy that you can contemplate this scenario with equanimity? Can you look at your balance sheet and take 10% off the income and add 10% to the costs and still feel good about life?

This is not mere political scaremongering. Every single economic body from the IMF to the IFS to the Bank of England has warned of extreme economic turbulence. A high price to pay indeed for 'taking back our country', whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.

To vote for – and get – Brexit would be the ultimate Pyrrhic victory.

This magazine has always been more about building bridges than walls. So we're for Remain.

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