There is no doubt about which issue will dominate political debate this month – our future with the EU. If you haven’t yet decided which way to vote in the referendum, we have our own take on what retailers think about the issues.
The image of the EU is that we pay in more than we get out directly (which is true, although the indirect benefits of membership are difficult to calculate), while it also creates a bureaucratic framework for business regulations. As far as local shops go, the business they do is generally with people who live within walking distance, yet they have to pay the same taxes and comply with the same regulations as those enterprises who trade internationally.
So I get why many might want to leave. But my view is that we should remain. Here’s why: if you need to source product and negotiate deals, scale helps. I can’t see how our national economy would benefit by withdrawing from the world’s biggest trading blocs.
Also, the regulation affecting us does not always come from Brussels. Take tobacco – the recent product directive is based on World Health Organisation guidelines, not the EU’s, and national governments all have their own rules when it comes to tobacco display.
Finally, if the Brexiters win, it would create an electoral mandate to ‘control’ immigration more strictly, and that sits uncomfortably with me just as I’m sure it would for many of you. Migration is caused by conflict and inequality, and the way we fix this is by increasing international co-operation, not by withdrawing from the room altogether.
Some of you will agree with this and some won’t, and I hope you are not offended by me volunteering a view. And if you are undecided, I hope that our feature helps brings some issues into focus.