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Are British businesses better off in the EU or out of it?

 

British voters are gearing up to decide on the UK’s membership of the European Union in a decision that could affect the way you run your business.

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Business leaders and politicians have begun fighting out the pros and cons of leaving, known as a Brexit, or remaining in the political union ahead of a referendum expected as early as June 2016.

In the latest move, British Prime Minister David Cameron this week hailed negotiations that he claimed had secured a new deal for the UK on migrant rights and rejecting EU laws.

 

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This is an important debate as the EU is responsible for a lot of the rules businesses have to comply with, such as the working time directive that dictates how many hours employees can work per week.

But how important is the political union and Britain’s future in it for small businesses and startups?

 

Staying in?

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Supporters of the EU highlight the benefits of free trade and movement of people across the continent without the burden of work permits.

They say the EU is an important trading partner to the UK, representing 44.6 per cent of exports in 2014, but its influence has been dropping amid the rise of China and emerging economies.

 

Going out?

But critics, or eurosceptics, claim the public and businesses get an unfair deal as part of the EU as laws are made by unelected officials and they can get more from trading with emerging economies and the US than being wedded to the continent.

They say there is no reason the UK cannot still trade with the EU despite not being a member and could even get better terms.

A recent report by campaign group Business for Britain found regulation, whether from the UK or Brussels, is regularly cited by start-ups and SMEs as being one of the biggest barriers to growth and competitiveness.

In the last Parliament alone, a total of 3,580 regulations and directives were passed by the EU that affect British businesses, many dealing with health and safety issues.

The total word count of all 3,580 regulations was over 13million words and it would take a UK business person, working an average 40 hours a week and reading at the average reading speed of 300 words per minute, 92 days to read all the EU red-tape enacted since 2010, Business for Britain claimed.

The European Union was formed in the aftermath of the Second World War as a political bloc that would ensure peace on the continent.

But it has gradually become more of an economic Union with 19 members adopting the single currency since the formation of the euro in 1999.

The UK isn't part of the eurozone and there are criticisms that those using the euro lack economic flexibility as their currencies are intertwined meaning individual countries can't use interest rates to control the currency and their economic performance.

A recent poll by trade body the Federation of Small Businesses found 47 per cent of members would prefer to remain in the EU, while 40 per cent want to leave. Of those that would prefer to stay, just over a third want to see more power returned to the UK.

What do you think? Give us your thoughts in our small business poll below.

 

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Do you think the UK should stay in the EU?

Yes/No. Reveal Result

 

We're here for you

Whether or not your small business currently trades, or plans to trade, with the EU, Accounts and Legal is here to help your business grow. Our team of small business accountants can help with your business's tax, accounting and payroll so that you can focus on business growth - both domestically and abroad.

 

Chris Conway

Managing Director

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