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Would business be better if we came out of the European Union?

ABC Translations were delighted to sponsor the Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce Big Debate on the subject “Should the EU be more business friendly” with speakers Caroline Lucas MP and Daniel Hannan MEP at the The Brighthelm Centre on Friday, 15 January 2016.

The chamber asked our director, Julie Roff, to give her view on doing business in (or out) of the EU.


What’s your view of the UK’s membership of the EU; does it help or hinder the running of your business?

Our business is helped by the UK’s membership of the EU on several different levels. We have some clients who are based in other EU countries who find it easy to use our services because of the freedom of trade and VAT agreements that membership brings. The same goes for us using translators and interpreters based in mainland Europe. And although the UK is not (fortunately!) part of the Eurozone, it helps having the majority of our suppliers charging in only GBP and EUR.

Moreover, the ease of migration from country to country within the EU means a greater demand for our services. Private individuals buying properties overseas need to understand their contracts of purchase; doctors moving to the UK need to provide certified translations of their qualifications to the General Medical Council; law firms find themselves dealing with clients of many different nationalities who have documentation that needs translating and a requirement for interpreters to assist in taking instructions or for court appearances.

Freedom of movement of persons within the EU also means a ready supply not only of those needing our services, but also of translators and interpreters that we can employ to satisfy that need!

On another level, manufacturers often find it easier to sell their goods within Europe than elsewhere, as most shipments can be dispatched to other member states of the EU without special customs documentation. This means work for ABC in translating websites, manuals, brochures, labels, contracts and other documentation involved in the sales process.

So overall, the four key freedoms of the EU – free movement of goods, capital, services and persons – benefit our business in several different ways.

What do you think the strongest argument for staying in the EU is?

From a business point of view, the free movement of goods, services and persons benefits how we carry out our business and at the same time increases the need for our services. From a personal viewpoint, I feel strongly that we are safer staying in. We currently have the best of both worlds: not being exposed to Schengen’s leaky borders, but able to play a big role in designing European counter-terrorism policies, keeping the European arrest warrant and sharing intelligence freely. I’m by nature inclusive and inclined towards multi-culturalism – being part of the EU just feels right.

Caroline Lucas at the Brighton Chamber Big Debate. Photo by Vervate

And coming out?

Eurosceptics argue that the vast majority of small and medium sized firms do not trade with the EU but are restricted by a huge regulatory burden imposed from abroad. I do trade with the EU, and work with many companies who do too, and I can’t say that I come across much red-tape that wouldn’t still be in place if we left. Let’s face it, the vast majority of health and safety regulation is there to stop people being killed and injured, and most employment law is designed to stop exploitation of staff and to restrict unsafe hours of work – that’s got to be a good thing.

Daniel Hannan at the Brighton Chamber Big Debate. Photo by Vervate

How does the EU need to be reformed to improve the trading climate for your business?

I think it’s important that the Eurozone has the right governance and structures to secure a successful currency for the long-term. Huge fluctuations in exchange rates make trading more difficult both for us and our customers, and there’s no doubt that the recent problems with the euro have affected the UK economy. It would also be useful if the EU were to do more to strike trade deals with emerging economies like China.

How would leaving the EU affect your business?

A lot would depend on whether the UK could negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU – my feeling is that we might be punished for leaving the club, so to speak. And according to the CBI, Britain may still have to comply with EU principles without having the opportunity to influence them if we wish to continue to trade freely. I don’t think we yet know just how much impact leaving the EU would have on business and the economy in general. Personally I’d rather not find out!

Photos by Simon Dack/Vervate

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