By Karan Bilimoria
Could the UK survive if it left the EU? The answer is: absolutely, yes. But there is no question but that the UK economy and our international standing would take a severe blow should we vote to leave the EU. This is the view held by heads of state, international trading partners, almost every country in the world and, critically, our closest allies.
Indeed, if we left the EU, we would need to renegotiate 50 trade agreements, not least our trade deal with the EU itself. That would not exactly be an easy negotiation with an organisation we had just deserted and, through our actions, possibly permanently destabilised. Trade deals are notoriously tortuous processes, and it will not be easy to agree trade deals with other countries, especially as we will be trying to forge trade deals with the very countries which did not want us to leave the European Union in the first place. As we know, the EU accounts for 44% of our exports and 55% of our imports but, in contrast, only 8% of the EU’s exports head to the UK. Indian administrators, politicians and business leaders see the UK as a gateway to the European Union and the key to their prosperity. European leaders do not want us to leave. They have categorically said: “We want you to be a part of the EU”. The IMF, the CBI and the Bank of England have all urged the UK not to leave. I have spoken with professors from Harvard Business School, of which I am an alumnus, who have been unanimous in urging the UK to remain in the EU. In fact, they have gone so far as to say, “You would be mad to leave”. This is about pragmatism and the enormous impact leaving the European Union would have on inward investment, international trade, innovation, the strength of our industries and economic growth.
Brexiteers also talk about losing our sovereignty. We are very much in control of our sovereignty, as we have the best of both worlds: we are part of the EU but not part of Schengen, and we are not part of the euro. Crucially, we are also not bound to measures advocating an ever-closer union. We are in control of our destiny and, in spite of all the protestations about EU red tape, the majority of red tape and barriers in this country come from ourselves through our tax system, planning laws and housing laws, not from the EU. Many EU directives have in fact been good for this country. We are one of the most open and flexible economies in the world where, in 26 years of building a brand from scratch, I have never come across corruption. An open economy has enabled me to build a household name and a growing global brand, thanks to this country, not because of any EU red tape.
I am not talking about scaremongering; I am talking about reality. In fact, it is what the Brexiteers want us to do that risks everything we have and creates uncertainty. We need to stay together in the EU and help it to reform from the inside. As the famous saying goes: “If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to go far, travel together”.