Does EU membership help entrepreneurs and businesses?

In a previous blog I highlighted why I am currently supporting Change UK, and in my last blog I looked at the societal benefits of EU membership.

In this blog I am focusing in on the entrepreneur and business (large and small) benefits of EU membership. Again I have spoken to numerous Change UK candidates who are running in the EU elections up and down the country to get their take on this topic.

As per my last blog, although I am supporting Change UK, I have fact checked everything that has been said in this blog to ensure I am not posting anything that isn’t 100% correct. But you are also most welcome to check as well.

So, does EU membership help our entrepreneurs, small, medium and large businesses compete and grow and what could the impact of Brexit be?

To start things off Dr Emma Taylor, MEP Candidate for East of England for Change UK: As part of the European Union, Britain is part of the world’s largest single market. It enhances our ability to work alongside and trade with our neighbour’s in a competitive environment. It gives 500 million people the freedom to live, study and work anywhere within its boundaries. It enriches our ability to share knowledge, scientific breakthroughs and innovative products with one another. In short, the European Union enhances the prospects of prosperity and security. There is not a single aspect of the world of work and business that is not touched in a positive way by Britain’s membership of the European Union’

Annabel Mullin is Leader of the Renew Party and is MEP Candidate for London for Change UK, bought in the excellent Horizon 2020 programme: ‘Through its Horizon 2020 R&D programme the EU has provided us with 40% of all public R&D funding in the UK helping us with our allies to find solutions to some of our biggest problems i.e. improving the power of computers to deal with lots of research data’

Jim Godfrey, MEP candidate in South West for Change UK looked at the actual views from business: ‘There is no form of Brexit that won’t leave us worse off, and on current trajectory we are heading for a no-deal Brexit, something the CBI has said would be a ‘crushing disaster’. Businesses do not want this – they know that we are better off in Europe, trading in an open market of 500m people. So it’s no surprise that in the area I am standing to represent – the South West – a Business West survey showed that the top choice for SMEs on Brexit is to ‘think again and hold a 2nd referendum.’

Joan Pons Laplana, East Midlands MEP Candidate for Change UK bought up the Small Business Act: ‘Through the launch of the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA), the EU has managed to distribute billions of euro to finance SMEs and help smaller firms to have easier access to EU funding. The SBA definitely makes the EU more entrepreneurial and creates new opportunities for expansion beyond the national borders. Even before the EU economic crisis, it wasn’t easy for the SMEs to get financial assistance for growth or innovation. Currently, with the introduction of SBA, SMEs have easier access to loans and venture capital from EU financial institutions through loan guarantees. In addition, between 2008 and 2011, the European Investment Bank (EIB) has reserved €30 billion to be granted to SMEs and has allocated €1 billion for equity and mezzanine finance to be implemented by the European Investment Fund’

Richard Ashworth, MEP for the South-East of England for Change UK, focused in on SMEs: ‘The EU has been remarkably important for SMEs – providing access to the world’s largest single market, and the ability to trade easily with 27 other Member States – not to mention the specific EU programmes targeting support at SMEs e.g. COSME (Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs) which supports access to finance, markets and creating an environment favourable to competitiveness or Erasmus, providing learning mobility for the younger generation.  Even the Prime Minister, whose red lines have got us into this mess, recognises the benefit of these programmes and wants the UK to continue to participate.’ 

Jessica Simor, MEP Candidate London for Change UK also bought in the important topic of talent: ‘As a member of the EU, our small businesses are part of a market of 500 million people. This is not just about customers, it’s about talent, exchange of goods and services – in fact, access to anything that one takes for granted in a single country, for example enforcement of contracts, training programmes, consumer protection law and labelling – simplifying and enabling them to expand and grow.’

Ollie Middleton, MEP Candidate the South West for Change UK mentioned a number of risk areas including tariffs: ‘Brexit presents a massive risk to our small businesses, thousands of which relay in frictionless, tariff free access to the single market. If Brexit were to go ahead, small businesses across the country could face severe skills shortages, additional costs on exports and a drying up of vital investment.’

Dan Price, MEP Candidate for the North West for Change UK focused in on cost impacts: ‘Leaving the EU means extra costs for UK manufacturers, building extra warehousing, paying extra staff, extra business rates and extra stock. Extra costs & less productivity leads to factories and jobs moving overseas. When manufacturers do this it has a domino effect throughout the economy. It’s just one of the reasons why Change UK are determined we get a people’s vote and campaign to remain within the EU.’

Andrea Cooper, MEP candidate for Change UK in the North West, used practical examples from her home city: ‘Leaving the EU would damage the North West economy. My city of Liverpool has benefited hugely from EU investment, with a significant amounts of EU funds invested in our infrastructure and skills –  and of course the fabulous City of Culture project in 2008.  Westminster may sometimes overlook us here, but EU has not forgotten about the North West. The EU has helped us to regenerate our city centres, improve transport, and give young people the skills they need to get on in life. 

There is already a huge productivity gap between the North and South of the country. We know that the success of London and the South needs to be mirrored in the North. We need to capitalise on our universities and science infrastructure. Take as an example the Graphene Institute in Manchester, which has benefited from £5m EU funding. Manchester has always been a source of new ideas and now isolating graphene as the thinnest and strongest material x 200 stronger than steel, and able to conduct electricity and heat. Leaving the EU would only damage the North West economy.’

Joanna McKenna, MEP Candidate for the West Midlands for Change UK focused in part on the worrying impact Brexit has already had: ‘Since the referendum business investment in our country has stalled, furthermore we hear reports of £1trillion being moved out of the city of London. The governments own advisors and experts show that any firm of Brexit will harm our economy and leave us worse off. It is the general public who will suffer. There is no better deal than the one we have now as members of the EU.’

Let’s finish off with Sophia Bow, MEP Candidate for Yorkshire and Humber for Change UK who had a direct example: I have, via the local Chamber of Commerce, mentored individuals who have had access to EU enterprise funds for their start up businesses.’

So in answer to my question, does EU membership help our entrepreneurs and businesses compete and grow? Yes it does, in many and various ways. It helps us sell into a market of over 500 people, it gives us a talent pool across a continent, it enables our businesses to compete globally and our entrepreneurs have received huge amounts of funding to scale.

To be blunt, no Brexit deal that has been mentioned comes anywhere near the deal that what we have now. Should we go ahead with Brexit it is very simply a considerable act of self-harm and will negatively impact our economy for years to come. We need to vote in MEPs who will champion the benefits of remaining in the EU and push for a peoples vote.

As per my last blog, the question we should all be asking our selves is, why in gods name are we thinking of leaving? We gain so much being in the EU – and have so much to lose by leaving.

If you have a vote please use it. You might want to consider to vote tactically, a good website is Remain United.

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