Midlands manufacturers vote to remain in the EU

Made in the Midlands recently hosted the Great Brexit debate at Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre to examine the proposed question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

Prior to the debate, Made in the Midlands posed the same referendum question in a survey to members. The results showed that 54.21% of members wanted to stay in the EU. In contrast, 26.17% were in favour of leaving the EU and 19.63% were undecided on the decision.

Members agreed that we would be taking a risk if we decided to leave the EU. With 29.91% of members stating it would be a big risk, whilst 41.12% acknowledged that there is some risk involved in the decision. Although, 25.23% voted that it would not be much of a risk and nobody believed that there is no risk involved in leaving the EU.

The discussion panel was Chaired by MIM President Christopher Greenough. First Orchard Director, Ilona Dalecka and Scott Harrison, Director of Swindell and Pearson represented the Bremain opinion. Whereas, Bill Good, CEO of Diverco Limited and Deryk Law, CEO of Clayton Holdings were in favour of a Brexit.

The debate began with Law expressing his opinion as to why the UK needs to vote for a Brexit. Law explained: “We export far more outside the EU than we do inside the EU. Our trade was worth £289bn to the EU in 2014, so when people ask the question: ‘If we left the EU, would they stop selling to us?’ I think that it is nonsense. However, I’m not talking about cutting ties with Europe, as we still want to trade with them.

“Instead, I suggest that we stop all of the laws from this undemocratic Union. If other countries outside the EU have trade agreements anyway, why wouldn’t they give us preferential treatment and stop trading with us? Also, I know people will argue that 3,000,000 jobs are dependent on the EU. However, there are 5,000,000 European jobs that are dependent on the UK.”

Alternatively, Dalecka presented her point of view from a Polish migrant now living in the UK. In 2015, the Department for Business Innovation & Skills examined the impacts of migrant workers on UK businesses. The study found that migrants have brought culturally unique ideas, complementary skills and knowledge of processes to the workplace. These changes have led to both improved productivity and company expansion.

In turn, Dalecka described a wealth of positives that coming to the UK has brought to her life, as she explained: “Poland joined the EU in 2004, which has opened a huge window of opportunity for myself, to work, study and live. I can understand that the EU is not ideal, but I do think that it is the ultimate solution to security and prosperity amongst Europe and the world. I think that the biggest problem within the sector is the lack of growth and support for local talent by the British government.”

Vote Brexit campaigner, Good has held senior positions within manufacturing and service related companies. This included Managing Director of a TI Group PLC subsidiary, TI Stainless Tubes. He argued: “What you are all going to be voting on will be the biggest decision that you make during your lifetime. The EU is not fit for the 21st Century, as the amount of money that is being wasted in the EU (which is your money) is £350 million per week. If you vote to remain, you are not voting for a status quo as Europe does not stand still. The economies that have prospered over the years, are those ones that have the least interference from government and politics. This allows businesses to deliver the goods. I want to trade with Europe, but I do not want anything to do with a political Union.”

Made in the Midlands pre-debate survey proved that only 18.68% of members believed that the European Parliament had done a good job. A remarkable 58.88% said they had not done a good job and the remaining 22.43% were unsure of the job they’d actually done. Furthermore, only 7.48% of members believed that the government had done a good job in educating the population about the role of the EU, leaving a resounding 81.31% claiming that the government had failed to deliver. A lot of the decisions made by the European Parliament have not been marketed into the widespread public knowledge and interest.

Swindell and Pearson are experts at securing and enforcing patents and trade marks across the world for their clients. In turn, Harrison argued that we should Bremain: “We sell roughly 50% of all of our exports to the EU and we are the leading destination for foreign investment in the EU. Many foreign companies invest here to help them sell goods and for access to the single market. The automotive industry is a great example of that, as we have: Toyota, Honda and Nissan producing cars in volume in the UK because they have access to the single market. What will happen to that deal if we remove that access? What alternatives are there for us if we exit Europe that can make our situation any better?”

Following the conclusion of the debate, Made in the Midlands asked the audience to raise stay, undecided or leave placards to represent their post-event decision. The results reflected the pre-debate survey as 50% of the audience were insistent on the UK remaining in the EU. Only 21% of the audience were in favour of a Brexit, which represented a slight decrease to the pre-debate survey results. However, 29% of the audience were undecided on how they would vote, this result supported the pre-debate findings that the government had failed to educate the population about the purpose of the EU.

The debate revealed that the Brexit campaign is centralised around the negatives that the EU is currently bringing to the UK. The EU being represented as undemocratic is the primary factor that is driving the manufacturers to vote for a Brexit. The campaign is a movement for change, rather than a decision that is directly proven to benefit the UK. Nobody on the Brexit campaign can provide any definitive timescale, outcomes or effects of what will happen to the UK’s economy if we leave the EU.

Alternatively, the Bremain argument is centralised on facts that we already know. Access to the single market has made Europe one of the biggest destinations for our country’s exports and has led to an influx of migrant workers. These workers have helped to fill the skills-gap that is currently plaguing the UK’s manufacturing sector. The EU is certainly not perfect, as proven by Greece’s ludicrous debt crisis, the Schengen agreement and the fact that the majority of our votes cast in European Parliament do not hold much strength or value. Prime Minister, David Cameron has agreed a package of changes to the UK’s membership of the EU, which will take effect immediately if the UK remains in the EU. If we stay, we can only hope that these changes strengthen our position of power within the EU.