A Small Business Case for Britain Within The EU

  • Julia Gash
  • 2016-04-28

With the EU reforendem looming, our CEO Julia Gash weighs in, making the case for remaining within the European Union. What are your thoughts, should we stay or should we go?

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I run a small but fast growing business, BIDBI (Bag It Don’t Bin It) in Sheffield. My company makes reusable cotton bags, eco-ethical gifts and creates design and illustration work. BIDBI employs 20 people in Sheffield and has a current turnover of over £1.7 million.

Like many businesses in Britain, my brand is reliant on a global market place for a significant part of its income stream as well as for maximizing its future growth potential, much of which is generated through sales from the EU. Being part of the EU has given us instant access to a market of around 500 million people. Working within a multi-national, single market cuts through the barriers of trade, whether it is businesses selling to other businesses or directly to consumers through online shops and marketplaces.

The BIDBI homepage welcomes potential international customers in several languages.

Advances in technology, political stability and free and easy trading conditions within the EU have combined to enable small businesses in Britain to grow and prosper on a massive scale over the last two decades.  Being part of the EU means that sending a parcel to Berlin or Barcelona is the same as sending one to Birmingham. No additional paperwork is required, which keeps administration and transportation costs low and delivery time frames quick and reliable. Superfast broadband and continuously evolving IT developments enable companies to do business with others, wherever they are located.

Much of the criticism leveled at the EU is focused on the amount of red tape that is generated by supposed legislation coming out of Brussels.  In over 25 years of running businesses in Britain I have yet to come across this so-called red tape!  Health and Safety and HR requirements may not be every entrepreneur’s dream but what’s the alternative? Not having this legislation would leave employees vulnerable to accidents and abuse and businesses subjected to an onslaught of personal injury claims and grievances.

Over the past decade BIDBI has benefitted from ad-hoc grants funded by the EU and which have enabled us to invest in machinery at our eco-print factory, showcase our eco-ethical brand at international trade shows, take on and train up young apprentices and provide working capital that has driven our growth. The EU principle of devolution through empowering the regions has targeted areas such as South Yorkshire, which has been hit by heavy industry decline and job losses, decade after decade.  Our own government would not have had the resources to target such a massive amount of support into deprived economic areas like South Yorkshire and without the support of the EU, many regions of Britain would have become a wasteland of missed opportunity. 

As a serial entrepreneur I have a clear vision as to what Britain would be like for my businesses should we vote to leave the EU in June. I know that opportunities will shrink and costs will rise.

Of course, the beating heart and the creative mind of an entrepreneur will find a way to continue working – but that may mean relocating elsewhere in the EU. One-stop shops will spring up overnight, enabling small and start-up British businesses to set up within mainland Europe quickly and cheaply.  Technology enables businesses to work remotely and run virtual or shared offices anywhere in the world. It will be easy to relocate the operations or administration of a business, whether it’s bricks and mortar, people or up in the cloud. 

This will be an irreversible loss for Britain on so many levels, as jobs will be lost and employee related taxes along with corporate tax receipts will shrink year on year.  This will have a knock on effect for the public sector as Treasury revenue falls, leading to further spending cuts in the NHS, welfare and schools. 

There is no such thing as splendid isolation when it comes to business.  How do you think British businesses will continue to prosper, create jobs and provide income for the public coffers by walking away from their biggest export market?  They won’t.  Whilst the rest of the world removes barriers to trade, Britain will be putting up a wall, which will simply be too high and too difficult for many of our businesses to climb.

Julia Gash

Company Director