Brexit debate at HR180, and in the STAY corner…

June 14, 2016

HR180’s founder and MD, Claire Morley-Jones, supports staying in the EU. Here’s her take on why.

I have been amazed and surprised by the strength of emotion that this debate has evoked in the nation and with the final result looking to be so close, I am sad that a great majority of us will ultimately be unhappy with whatever decision is taken!

I am also, though, stunned by the absolute hubris of the leave campaign insisting that our tiny island will always be the 5th largest economy at a time of global growth.  I have always believed that “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” and whilst I am not a religious person, but very proud to be British, I believe the entire leave argument is extraordinarily insular, prideful, narrow minded and short termist.

I have been very lucky to travel the world extensively both for work and for pleasure and every time I have been surprised by how I can bump into someone I know, out on a boat in the middle of Thailand, in the queue for the Taj Mahal or transferring to Vancouver from Chicago airport.  The entire world is now smaller than we could ever have imagined possible and my experiences have shown me that we should be thinking in AT LEAST global terms, not national ones.

This debate is even closer to my heart given that I have children who are not yet 3 years old, who will be competing with billions of applicants for the jobs and careers that they want – for example, just China and India alone have combined populations of £2.6bn at the present.  Also, what will they be competing for?  20 years ago, my husband’s profession of Lead Solutions Architect did not even exist.  In fact, as he was born (1976), the very first home computers and mobiles as we know them today were being invented!  So what lies ahead for my kids… will they be the Director of a Space Station, a memory augmentation consultant or a child designer – we can’t even imagine what will be available in another 20 years’ time given the pace of technology and global change!  So to be limiting our opportunities and global reach by not being part of something bigger than ourselves seems very “Luddite” to me.

And it doesn’t end there…

We are no longer at the head of a huge Empire (admittedly I am slightly sad about this!) so how do we stay relevant?  Our manufacturing industry is almost dead given the global competition we face from rising industrial economies and so that leaves us with the things we are “now” good at – knowledge, uniqueness and quality. There is no point trying to stay in the past, we need to move forward positively and embrace a new future.  Ours being the 5th largest economy in the world is as a result of our ability to adapt and the fact that we are principally now a knowledge based economy.  My job especially, and the services HR180 offers, are as a direct result of one person’s skills and expertise and the use of what’s in their head.  How can we sell that, without free movement to travel?  Without having a global perspective and looking for opportunities wherever they lie in the world?  We would be stunting our ability to grow – surely this is a form of self-harm from people who simply don’t like change?

Talking of the global world, let’s take it one step further.  It is an absolute reality that in 2025 Elon Musk (Head of Tesla Motors and SpaceX) plans to launch manned space missions to Mars and begin its colonisation. No longer a country competing internationally, or even globally, rather, we will be a miniscule part of the galactic economy.  How does Britain, on it’s own, remain relevant then?

And where does all this independence and insular thinking lead?  If we don’t feel European, why should the Scots or the Welsh feel British?  Why should the Duchy of Cornwall not “go it alone” thinking that they can do better than those useless bureaucrats in Westminster?  We have always had an amazing multi-cultural society that admittedly is being currently tested in some areas, however, if we go back to the “clan” culture where we’re out for ourselves and those most similar to us, then surely we make a return to the days of ignorance, war and tribal loyalty (don’t we have enough of this in football?)  Jewish communities, Glasgow communities, Muslim communities, Romany Gypsies, to name but a few, are all regularly criticised for their lack of openness to others, transparency and willingness to accept diversity, how would we be demonstrating anything different with a vote to leave?

We can take control of our own destiny say some. “Really?” say I!  Today the leave campaign launched their suggestions and timetable for re-negotiating our trade deals.  Hundreds of civil servants will be re-directed from the vital work they were doing at a time of austerity and be put to use negotiating separate and individual agreements with at least 28 other nations.  How is that a good use of money?  And with all the additional travel, accommodation, salaries, pensions etc how much of the overall budget retained from not paying our EU dues, will actually be put back into the areas that need it?  According to their timetable the entire process is due to take approximately 3-4 years – what else could we have achieved in that time?  How much further forward could we be if 4 years of effort had been expended on changing the bits of the EU we don’t like, or delivering the services our country actually needs rather than re-negotiating something that’s previously been negotiated.  Like any marriage or relationship, there are parts you like and parts you don’t but as long as the positive outweighs the negative, it’s worth making the effort to ensure it works.  You will never, ever get something you’re 100% happy with.  The Xbox One has Kinect which makes it possible for you to talk to your TV but doesn’t have the programming power to allow virtual reality, the Lexus CT200 is great at fuel economy and saving our planet but doesn’t have much oomph. You can never get exactly what YOU want in the one thing – mainly because everyone wants something slightly different.  The EU is the same.

As people say with the lottery, you have to be in it, to win it!  If we stay in the EU we can actively and positively push for change and influence what happens next.  The EU will NOT want to send a message that you can leave and everything will be cushy, therefore, they are bound to be as obstructive, unhelpful and as unaccommodating of our “demands” as possible.  Therefore, whilst no-one is looking (or caring any more) these trade deals are likely to end up the same or worse than we’ve got now meaning that we still need to conform to all EU rules, regulations, standards etc with no say at all on how these should be structured in the first place.  A great deal of the Brexit argument has been around the free movement of people and yet not one non EU country based in Europe has yet managed to negotiate not having some sort of free movement as part of their trade deal – surely that tells you something?

Given that the Brexit debate does appear to centre principally on immigration, lets look at the impact on “taking jobs from British people”.  Firstly, we currently have the lowest unemployment since 2005 – having just been recruiting here ourselves for entry level positions, I can confirm it is now very definitely a candidate led market.  Therefore, whilst there are economic migrants coming here, we do have jobs available.  Secondly, it has been my experience over the last 17 years that “British” people believe themselves to be above certain jobs.  Graduates, who now have to pay fees, are really focusing on their studies, meaning that they leave University with no work experience but the absolute expectation that they will get a Graduate Job with a minimum £20k salary.  No-one, except other EU nationals, want to do the back breaking work involved in farming, or in domestic cleaning, or warehouse picking or packing and yet highly qualified people are prepared to come to the UK to work at these jobs because the salary that they will get will go further for them than for other British families who (having been through the feast years of the early 2000’s) have an expectation of a higher standard of living.  Now that the benefits issue was resolved yesterday in the European Court, we will not be wasting money on those not making an active economic impact on our economy and society.

Finally, the EU for many years has been a great excuse for national governments to apportion blame when they’ve messed up.  I mean, whose going to come and counter that argument at a national level anyway?  As an example, the Tampon Tax was in all the newspapers for weeks due to various nationwide campaigns, with the EU having been blamed mercilessly for insisting that VAT was applied to sanitary products.  And yet, our own Government, could have applied at the time the rates were set to have this discounted to 5% VAT as many of our European counterparts have done.  Now that’s a whole other debate about fusty, middle aged men making decisions in relation to sanitary products and how much money they can gain for the government coffers, the point is that the EU was blamed for something WE didn’t counter.

So let’s take a quick look at where the EU has helped.  Consumers now have a much better deal across the whole of Europe whether that’s in relation to lower mobile roaming charges, caps on credit card fees or proper compensation for delayed flights.  Unfair competition has been challenged with the EU taking on the likes of Microsoft, Samsung and Toshiba – the UK would never be able to achieve this alone.  Under EU regulations we’re forced into spending money on keeping our beaches clean and the water unpolluted – in 1999 there were some beaches that were so dire you couldn’t go near them.  As we all know there are so many priorities for where money should be spent that the Government has to react to opinion otherwise they lose power.  Therefore, flooding defence is not an issue until it actually becomes one and clean beaches would be the same – people won’t see the point in spending the money until none of us can use our beaches.

The EU has insisted on annual leave, working time regulations, part timers rights and maternity/paternity/adoption leave all helping to protect workers across the Union.  Here in the UK, whist we were the first to properly introduce it, it took from 1959 to 1975 to get an Equal Pay Act for all work passed – and having the legislation was necessary to pave the way for our entry into the EU!

And finally, whilst any expert who opens their mouth is immediately criticised, it is a fact that the UK currently has an AAA credit rating.  Standard and Poors have confirmed that should we “Brexit” they would reduce our credit rating potentially to as a low as a B, so whilst we may save in payments to EU, we will pay out more in added interest for a lower UK credit rating. Moody’s Analytics also reported in March that “the economic costs of the UK leaving the European Union would outweigh the potential benefits and would have credit implications for a range of bond issuers, including the UK government, banks, insurers and non-financial companies”.  Why would we want to take this level of risk with an economy already under pressure!

Seriously how much more do you need!

 And in the LEAVE corner…read HR Manager, Tim Frear’s, thoughts on why leaving the EU makes sense for him here.



Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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