Executive editor George MacDonald and editor-in-chief Chris Brook-Carter go head to head as retailers prepare for Thursday’s poll.
Why the UK should remain
Risk and its likely reward are daily considerations for everybody in business.
But who would risk their business on simple, if sincere, aspiration? That is what is advocated by Brexiteers.
They hold out a vision of bright sunlit uplands of international trade to which an autonomous UK could set sail in search of fortunes new, like some modern-day equivalent of Elizabethan mercantilism.
But imperfect as the EU may be, in 2014 it accounted for 44.6% of the UK’s exports of goods and services, according to the ONS.
“Politically, splendid isolation for the UK would not address some of the issues that perversely drive support for the Brexit cause”
While that proportion has declined, it remains too large to jeopardise by withdrawal – a decision that would surely be penalised by the EU.
Politically, splendid isolation for the UK would not address some of the issues that perversely drive support for the Brexit cause.
Would there suddenly be an end to the vast flows of people across the world towards and within Europe, and onwards to Britain? No.
Would the UK become more secure in the face of a terrorist threat? No.
Are solutions to such problems more likely to be found by countries working together? Yes.
The UK and its great retail companies have traditionally thought big, not small.
EU countries such as Germany – where only this week Ted Baker said it has launched its first local-language website – represent a vital market. That hasn’t stopped retailers growing elsewhere: Dixons Carphone is in the US and New Look in China.
Britain can have a relationship with the EU and the wider world. It should stay in the EU and press for reform with a seat at the table, not with its nose pressed against the window.
That is the most likely way that UK citizens can enjoy aspirational lives and the benefits of a liberal, prosperous society.
- George MacDonald, executive editor, Retail Week
Why the UK should leave
“Brace yourself for a barrage of misleading economic propaganda on both sides” was the depressingly accurate prognosis of Next boss Lord Wolfson in March. That urge to fill the void left by fact with fiction is not entirely the fault of the personalities involved in the Brexit debate. Instead it’s a product of the uncertainty that defines our future.
No one can convince me that the necessary reform of EU institutions can be achieved from within. A Union, which has morphed out of all recognition from its origins, continues to kill off the democratic rights of sovereign nations – rights won over generations – to replace them with a supranational regime that is unaccountable and unelected and whose indifference to the needs of its people has led to the folly of the euro and fiscal policies that have ended in misery for millions.
“Here we must trust that Britain’s natural instincts for tolerance, free trade and globalisation prevail over the nastier elements of the Leave campaign”
I am under no illusion of the potential short-term economic trauma of Brexit. But there are compelling reasons to believe an end to EU red tape, the liberalisation of trade with the rest of the world and the immediate end to costs of EU membership could be net positive. The most believable forecasts are that Brexit will be economically neutral.
There is uncertainty over whether a decision to remain sentences us to ever closer political union to an unreformed EU. So too the success of a vote to leave lies in the systems and deals that are hammered out after. Here we must trust that Britain’s natural instincts for tolerance, free trade and globalisation prevail over the nastier elements of the Leave campaign.
A liberal, fair-minded and accountable future, that has at its heart the democratic rights of the individual and therefore the economic and political well-being of future generations, can be better achieved outside the decaying infrastructure of the EU.
- Chris Brook-Carter, editor-in-chief, Retail Week