The EU Referendum is upon us
This is the week that the country goes to the polling station to voice their opinion on the EU in a referendum to decide if the majority favour staying in the EU or if the general public believes we’d be better off pulling out.
Opinions are widely divided and whilst we’ll obviously be discussing the best way to work with whatever the result may be, we wouldn’t dream of trying to advise you which way to vote – Tamebay isn’t a political blog. There are of course small businesses arguments both for staying in the EU and for leaving.
It goes without saying that border free trade is a massive advantage, the ability to sell to any of 28 countries with ever more unified trading policies (such as common consumer rights across the EU) makes an awful lot of sense.
We also know that many UK online sellers source products from other EU countries. Being able to do this with a minimum of paperwork and no customs duties to pay is an advantage. The more product and service regulations harmonised across the EU in theory the easier it is to do business with other EU countries.
It appears likely that the marketplace platforms we trade on would probably find it easier if the UK stayed in the EU. I have less concern for marketplaces however as companies such as eBay and Amazon are certainly big enough to foot the cost of any changes if we did vote to leave.
Just as there are arguments for remaining in the EU, there are plenty of reasons to think that leaving the EU would be desirable. One obvious reason for leaving is that the amount of red tape spewing from the EU causes a higher burden on small businesses in comparison to larger companies. Small businesses have fewer resources and personal to comply with the EU edicts.
A case in point was the VAT MOSS fiasco which required every business no matter how small to register to collect VAT if they sold even on digital download to an EU country. In the end HRMC decided that although the EU told you you had to register, that for VAT purposes HMRC didn’t want to class you as a business (even though they’d quite rightly class you as a business for your income tax!). Likewise the Cookie law was a waste of everyone’s time.
Even with a “Leave” vote would we quit the EU?
We should remember that the referendum is not a legally binding decision, but a statement of preference from the populace to our elected government.
It appears quite unlikely that enough MPs would vote to pass legislation to leave the EU even if the government were to introduce the necessary bills to do so. Certainly nothing will change the day after the referendum or even in the near future. It would take years to disentangle the country from the EU and even under Article 50 it would take two years before the UK left the EU.
What may happen this week is a vote for the status quo and we can all get back to work happily trading across the EU and simply wait to see what the next round of EU directives bring and assess if they are helpful or unhelpful to marketplace traders. The alternative is a possibly prolonged bout of uncertainty as we wait to see what trading relationship we end up with when selling to our European neighbours.
We have faith in small businesses
What we do know is that over the past decade or so both Dan and I have met hundreds (probably thousands) of small businesses and you are remarkably innovative and agile. We also know that cross border trade started on eBay over two decades ago both within the EU and across the entire planet.
Whatever the referendum result and regardless of what change staying in the EU or leaving the EU brings, by and large small businesses will flourish and are probably more likely to embrace any changes better than some of the larger businesses in the country.