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The EU Hokey Cokey

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Will Abbott, Partner at UK200Group member firm Randall & Payne requests clarity from both sides of the EU Referendum debate to enable SMEs to make an informed decision.

A straw poll of around 100 SME business owners conducted at our recent budget day event showed an overwhelming 75% wishing to stay in the EU. My own conversations with business owners seem to support that view, with most concerned about the unknown consequences of leaving the EU when, frankly, most of those business are performing well.

I am also hearing that European partners and customers of UK SME’s are deferring investment and postponing orders until the result of the referendum is known. This is the real world and these are real issues, not hypotheses and forecasts.

This perhaps illustrates the one thing that SME business owners dislike above all else – inconsistency. It is almost a case that we don’t mind what the rules are, as long as we can rely on them for a reasonable period of time. That way we can plan, invest and build successful businesses within the given framework. At the moment part of that framework is the UK’s membership of the EU – clearly leaving it would be a massive change.

Now the In/Out campaigns are properly underway, the first thing that strikes me is the contradictory messages from each side, supported by the usual array of “lies, damned lies and statistics”. Really? Here we have an historic vote which will have a significant impact on the future of the UK and it seems that personal political ambitions may well be the primary driver for some of the key proponents.

Surely this issue is far too important for it to be decided on rhetoric and spurious evidence? What the public and SME business owners need is to be presented with factual information in an objective and intelligent fashion. How else will we make an informed decision in the referendum without it?

Our politicians have decided that the public should have a choice about our future membership of the EU, which we did not ask for. Having given us that choice, it is reasonable to ask that we are now treated as intelligent people rather than as pawns in some political game. As SME business owners employing thousands of people and paying our fair share of taxes, it is time to give us the opportunity to choose our destiny by giving us the facts that will allow us to make the best decision.

Will Abbott
Partner and Head of Business Advisory Services
Randall & Payne LLP


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