The UK and Europe – Let’s stay together

Nick Pearce, director of Alexander DanielsNick Pearce, director of Bristol recruitment firm Alexander Daniels, speaks to Business Leader magazine about why the UK should vote ‘yes’ in the upcoming EU referendum. 

In a few months’ time, the people of the UK will be asked to take a momentous decision – a once in a lifetime decision that will affect the fate of this country for decades to come.

Should we remain a member of the European Union, with all its imperfections, or strike out on our own and leave the organisation – so-called “Brexit”?

My view is unequivocal: the UK should stay put. But why?

As someone responsible for running a successful recruitment business, it is impossible not to be constantly reminded of the acute skills shortage which is not only affecting the UK now but will continue to do so in the coming years.

The free movement of labour provided for by our membership of the EU is essential to bridge the gap created by an ageing population and the high level of demand for certain skills which comes as an inevitable result of economic growth.

Vital sectors within the UK economy would suffer significantly if it became more difficult to recruit from within the EU as a result of Brexit. It would make us less competitive in global markets and severely hinder our growth prospects.

But rather than just being presented with negatives, people need positive reasons to vote to remain in the EU. So how do Bristol and the South West actually benefit currently from EU membership?

I see trade and labour as being the two key areas where the national and regional economies have most to gain from EU membership. Bilateral trade agreements make it easier for the UK to trade globally as part of the larger EU economic region.

And there is no doubt too, that my own company benefits from the UK being in Europe, Alexander Daniels having recently launched a global business focused on supporting the growth being experienced within the 3D printing industry.

Our sector, recruitment, is becoming more international generally and the market for talent is global. The younger generation of workers entering the market is far more mobile and as such, the ability to place people across national borders without significant bureaucratic red tape is a huge benefit of being part of the EU.

Of course there are understandable concerns around foreign workers taking the jobs of UK citizens, but in reality these fears are unfounded. The UK is at almost full employment and as such, cannot continue to grow without inward immigration.

Should the referendum result in an “out” vote I believe the impact would, in any case, be short-lived. Inward investment would reduce in the short term and UK competitiveness would suffer. Over time, however, the UK would introduce trade agreements and allow the movement of labour to offset the shortages in key skills – thereby returning us to the situation we are in now as members of the EU.

I believe that once the referendum campaign gets properly underway, the support from the bulk of British businesses for remaining within the EU will help to tip the balance in favour of the “in” campaign.