Are You In Or Are You Out?

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Yes I know. It’s everywhere at the moment. Some of us are EU obsessed. The rest of us switch off. The reality is that I am a business owner and this subject matters. I may be tiny and insignificant in the great scheme of things but somewhere along the line the EU will affect me. I’m not sure how but on 23 June I have decide how I will be voting.

Readers might assume I sit on the Brexit side of the argument. Currently I don’t have a side. Some of the biggest problems affecting my trade are not covered by the EU. Manufacture in China, Bangladesh, Cambodia etc are largely my concern.

However, it is incredibly difficult to find impartial information about how remaining in, or leaving, will affect my industry and my life. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone sits on one side of the fence or the other. A lot of the claims are speculation because this is a new situation for us as a country.

I’ve tried to pull a few considerations to the forefront. But I’m still none the wiser and flailing around in the muddy waters of the middle ground. I know I am not the only one.

Leaving the EU could lead to increased UK trading with countries outside of the EU providing the right rules are put into place. Or it could make the UK more self sufficient and help us get our act together. But is that likely with business running costs as high as they are in the UK?

Figures published by the ONS in May show exports from the UK were at their lowest since 2008 largely due to increasing imports as foreign companies continue to undercut UK manufacture. This isn’t UK trade’s fault. It is simply more expensive to manufacture here. We have higher living standards, the minimum wage (now the living wage) that many other countries do not entertain, health and safety regulations and high business rents, rates and fees. We can’t compete with the underpaid ungoverned labour and poor conditions suffered by workers abroad which help to keep imports attractive to consumers.

At the same time as the ONS figures were published, it was announced that UK industry had fallen back into recession.

Now, I don’t know what leaving the EU will do to any of these figures. But the fact we are in the EU and these are the current figures is a small suggestion of how being in the EU might be affecting us. And I, like many other people, am intrigued by what’s potentially on the other side of the fence good or bad. Realistically whichever decision we take on 23 June the outcome may not be felt for years.

Leaving the EU COULD make clothes more expensive if we start manufacturing at home. I don’t have a problem with this. My philosophy is that cheap clothes are not valued. Fast fashion retailers could be forced to put their prices up if agreements between countries change thus potentially changing the pecking order on the high street. We educated customers into expecting cheap. It’ll be down to us to reeducate them out of it.

Whilst fashion businesses who enjoy manufacture and import from within the EU are largely in favour of remaining in, small independent companies such as myself are not always of the same opinion. And whilst it’s important to look at the bigger picture,. you can’t help but look at your own circumstances and wonder what will benefit you most as an individual.

Export and import matters. Export cripples homegrown businesses who cannot compete against companies who produce their products abroad for a fraction of the cost. The ‘in’ party will argue that getting consumers to spend is important and things that are cheap encourage purchases. But these are empty figures when you look at the long term damage it has done so far.

Employment. I don’t employ anyone. I just can’t afford to. But if we were manufacturing more in the UK I could probably get myself on some freelance lists. The last freelancer position I had involved altering wedding and prom dresses which were imported. I altered them for almost the same cost as the original price tag on the dress. The mark ups on these dresses was huge in the shops here and they cost pence to manufacture abroad. Even so it doesn’t necessarily mean that the company who is selling them in the UK is making a huge profit. Business costs in retail in this country are massive.

The thing is, all this is speculation. because we haven’t left the EU yet and because my considerations aren’t based on anything I can find out there in the ether. Nothing is impartial.

If you think your vote is worth anything, you should seriously look at your role in the country’s economy and how you might want to see the UK after 23 June. Whichever way you vote, at least use it and have your say.

For all things Falcieri Designs check out my website at www.falcieridesigns.co.uk

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