I am no expert on EU employment legislation, but I do know that if it is harder for millions of people across Europe to move (and work) freely across borders, then our economies will all suffer as a result.
Now, please understand me correctly, I do not for one moment think that this will transpire, but with 2.2 million Britons working in the EU and 2.6 million EU nationals working in the UK, there are a few worried people out there at the moment. It is unlikely that employment law will be changed significantly in the medium term, but the UK government has shown that it is not against considering changes that affect a large proportion of our working population.
EdenGroup works as an outsourcing partner (and umbrella finance provider) to the recruitment industry, and with George Osborne tightening the noose on independent contractors from the 6th April, I understand how concerns about “potential” changes can become very real in people’s heads. His cuts to travel and subsistence allowances for these contractors would have a knock-on effect across all sorts of UK industries. It is not only highly-paid consultants who might be affected. Teachers, medical staff and construction workers will be out of pocket. This is just one example of legislation coming “out of the blue” to put normal people out of pocket.
So, going back to the European question. There is a possibility of disruption for Brits living and working in the EU. There is a possibility of disruption for all sorts of EU nationals working in the UK. Huge amounts of British businesses rely on all levels of “talent” from Europe to help them do the best job that they can. From logistics workers to bankers, questions are being asked around the dinner tables of the land. What if? Would they? Could they? No, surely not….
This is why Britain may well vote to remain in the EU, even if we would be better off outside it. David Cameron is playing the “threat” card, and he is playing it well. There could be “nightmarish” changes to legislation as a result of a Brexit. The chances of that are probably 0.5%, but that 0.5% is enough to get people to vote for the status quo. A nightmare is a dream about your worst fears, but its hangover can affect you long after you wake up and realise that it hasn’t happened (yet).
Status quo is comfortable, it is reliable, and it is what we have always known. This blog is not about my views on whether we should leave or not (I’m not quite decided on that one), but it is my prediction that if we do remain, it will be fear that will be the driving force behind our decision.
That is a pity. We are a great nation, and we should make our decision based on the positives rather that the nightmare scenarios that will probably never happen anyway.
Peter Giltrap, Director EdenGroup