On Thursday 23 June the UK will vote to decide whether to remain in the European Union. Advocates for both sides have spoken out publicly with their stances, but what does each outcome mean for those in the jewellery industry?
The birth of the EU
The European Union (EU) was created in the aftermath of World War II, in an attempt to foster economic cooperation between neighbouring countries. The aim was to trade with each other and become economically independent, in order to avoid conflict. After gradual integration from 1945, the EU as we currently know it was created by the Maastricht Treaty on November 1 1993, to serve as a political and economic union between European countries. The United Kingdom joined what would become the EU in January 1973, and the entity makes its own policies concerning members’ economies, societies and laws.
Reasons to stay?
One of the main arguments in favour of staying, is the fact that some of Britain’s biggest trading partners are in the EU, which includes France and Germany. More than 50 per cent of UK exports go to EU countries, and Britain’s membership allows us to have a say in how trading rules are drawn up.
Another argument for staying concerns employment; it is understood that three million jobs rely directly on the UK’s membership to the EU. Analysis of this figure confirms that millions of jobs are linked to the EU, although there is no evidence to show how many would be jeopardised should we leave. Being a member of the EU also affords Britain a certain amount of influence in the world. The EU is the world’s largest market and plays a substantial role in climate change issues, world trade and development projects, with Britain playing a key role within it.
It is also beneficial for travel. There are 1.4 million British people living abroad within the EU, and having membership makes movement between countries easy. UK driving licenses are also valid in all EU countries. The European Arrest Warrant also removes the need for complicated extradition procedures between EU members facilitating the justice system.
Reasons to leave?
Free-movement means that, whilst UK citizens are free to travel and live anywhere in the EU, people from other EU countries are free to travel to and live in Britain, which has led some to become concerned about immigration control.
Another argument to leave is that, whilst the European Parliament is directly elected, the commission which proposes legislation is not. Given many of these laws are able to supersede legislation made by individual states’ parliaments, some see the system as undemocratic. There is also a financial obligation associated with being in the EU, which has been estimated to cost around £55 million per day. Analysts estimate that the figure is closer to £24 million per day when rebates and other receipts are taken into account.
Many have put forward the argument that certain countries have managed to successfully trade with the EU without being in it. Norway, for example, controls its own agriculture and keeps its fish, rather than being bound by EU quotas.
Professional Jeweller has spoken to businesses across the nation, to gather where the industry lies on the decision.
Howard Levine, managing director, Chalfen of London, says: I do not pretend to understand politics and am really unsure about the Brexit. My heart says get out but I am worried that the turmoil left behind might restrain business. In the end whatever happens will happen and we will continue to be the best supplier and support we can be for our retailers.”
Karen Webb-Meek, owner, In The Pink Jewellery, says: “The EU is good for the stability of UK business: the pound is already weakened and falling against many other currencies because of nervousness about the result of the referendum. I can potentially see a massive UK currency crash if the referendum is in favour of an exit, causing huge damage.”
Read the full feature in the May issue of Professional Jeweller, which is out now.