With our membership of the European Union now a key battleground ahead of next year’s General Election, The Entrepreneurs Network director Philip Salter has weighed up the impact of a Brexit on UK entrepreneurs in his most recent Forbes column.
Despite the extraordinary rise of Ukip and a growing resentment towards the EU’s democratic deficit, Euroscepticism is not as rife in Britain as one might expect. A recent British Chambers of Commerce survey found that most businesses would like to remain in the EU, but with specific powers transferred back from Brussels. Celebrity entrepreneurs have already locked horns on the issue: Sir Richard Branson wants to remain in, Sir Alan Sugar out, and Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis supports renegotiation.
Yet two things stand between the UK and a Brexit. First, in the event of a Tory victory, our relationship with Europe will depend on David Cameron’s success in his promised renegotiations. Secondly, Labour leader Ed Miliband has ruled a Brexit unless further powers are handed over to Brussels.
And many entrepreneurs fear losing access to the Single Market, which pro-Europeans argue would significantly weaken Britain’s economy. The EU remains the UK’s biggest trading partner, accounting for more than £400bn a year. But if a Brexit is on the cards, our political leaders should follow in the footsteps of Ireland, Norway and Switzerland, by remaining within the European Free Trade Association, Salter says. The only question is: Would Europe let Britain have the benefits of free trade without the political union?