Views from a small marmalade business on the EU Referendum

As a micro employer I am affected by red tape from the EU and the UK, the UK I cannot ignore being within its boundaries the EU, it seems, at the moment, is a movable feast until June 23rd.

The EU has had an undoubted influence on the UK and much I would say has been beneficial.  I may be a cynic but I don’t believe the UK would have brought in the Environmental protections imposed by the EU without having too.  The cost of ensuring beach water quality and air quality (which incidentally we still breach) is not a cost that big business with their lobbyists would have welcomed.

On employment rights I can assure you (as an ex employment lawyer) the EU has definitely helped the employed with much clenching of teeth by employers.  The EU is to be thanked for The Working Time Directive which ensured minimum pay, paid holidays, definitions of who is and who is not employed and the hours you can be made to work.  If we leave the EU are we so sure of our own Governments that these will be maintained rather than eroded.

Yes, the EU has brought in restrictions that aren’t liked and can be mocked in the press (who incidentally are owned by big business with their own agenda); and many of the requirements of belonging to the EU can look onerous when viewed in isolation.  Free movement of workers being one, but think about it.

I listen to ‘more or less’ a programme on radio 4 and I think this is where I heard it, they looked into migrant question and whether or not EU migration was of a net benefit or loss to the UK economy as a whole.  They concluded the influx of EU workers was beneficial in that they paid in tax more than they took from the economy.

There are problems but to a large extent they are of the UK Government not responding quickly enough or at all, to the obvious requirements of the increased population, more school places, housing, greater capacity in hospitals, infrastructure.

Without the migrant workers there will be fundamental problems in the food chain.  How many of you are willing to pick cabbages, strawberries, lettuce at 5am in all weathers?  Work the night shifts on the preparation lines, I am not.  Many food businesses especially in production will have real problems with an inevitable rise in food prices in the shops.

I understand that a sizable percentage of our transport structure is staffed by economic migrants some with no English (a problem with instructions on the boxes) but they are there at 2am ensuring your marmalade arrives on time and they are paying their taxes.

Why has no one stated the obvious, if we vote out, Scotland may break up the union as they want to stay in.  We will not be an island nation defending our borders without a bloody big policed wall between Scotland and England and that didn’t work last time.

The other ‘big one’ The Economy……….. all businesses need stability to plan ahead, nearly all need credit facilities for purchase of equipment etc.  I am worried about a Brexit because we owe so much money as a Country.  At present we borrow to pay the interest for goodness sake.  What will happen to the cost of the future loans which then trickles down to all of us in higher interest rates?

Business has been ‘hit’ by the increase in the minimum wage, don’t get me wrong, in principle and practice I believe everyone should be paid fairly for the work they do but it has to be paid for.  This much touted need for ‘increased productivity’ means using machines not people.  If you have less money in your pocket marmalade may seem a luxury you can’t afford.

Finally, I have a limited attention span, I have to address the quality of the ‘debate’ both sides of the argument I end up shouting at the radio, they can’t have their cake and eat it.

If as the Brexit camp claim they would impose a cap on migration we would lose the chance to access the single market.  The Norwegian and Swiss have to allow free movement of workers and pay a levy to have access.  Switzerland has had to accept double the level of migration (per capita) that we have.  Again radio 4, this time the food programme, interviewing a salmon farmer who wanted to join the EU because although the EU gave him free access to the market for smoked fish it would impose a levy of 97% for ready meals preventing the business from becoming more profitable.

One day I hope to export, my nightmare is the individual agreements with multiple countries , even if the UK came out, I would still have to comply with all EU requirements on labelling if I want to sell there.  Though I buy their fruit they may not want marmalade, as a niche product and impose a tariff, after all the Spanish make it already and grow the fruit.  Yes the USA want my marmalade, I have weekly enquiries but I would need an agent there at the cost of just under £900/year and jump through all their hoops including the possibility of the USA agents flying over here to investigate my business at my expense if anything including what I can’t control goes wrong…………and we might accept TTIP!  Another argument another day.

Clearly from the above I want to stay IN, it is in my interest and the future of my children in spite of the regulations imposed on us I have little faith the home grown politicians will do any better.  We are a small Country in an uncertain world of Climate change and conflict I would feel safer as part of a gang, I would prefer that gang to be local and not led by Trump and Boris

Both sides are treating us like children, I don’t like either nanny.


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