Cameron’s walk-out: the entrepreneurs’ view

Growing Business asks Britain's commercial leaders what they think of the PM's veto

Few political decisions in recent years have polarised opinion as much as David Cameron’s walk-out of the EU treaty talks last Friday. To some, Cameron is defending our proud nation against international pressure. To others he is selfish and foolhardy, putting the interests of his party, and himself, above those of his nation, and jeopardising Britain’s future trading prospects.

When we asked the business community what they thought, many expressed the view that Cameron has been driven by personal motives. Jason Gaywood, a senior consultant at currency exchange firm HiFX, told us that “Cameron had to enforce the UK’s veto, if for no other reason than his own political career”. Meanwhile Askar Sheibani, CEO of Comtek, an IT repair company founded in the UK and now active across Europe said that the walk-out “is purely about making him (Cameron) look good and get popularity”.

However many also believe that Cameron did the right thing by walking out. Hugh Chappell, a serial entrepreneur currently involved in web businesses such as Lovestruck, MyVoucherCodes and ParkatmyHouse, said: “I think David Cameron has made the right decision to veto the EU treaty. Short term it will be difficult however in the long run the prime minister has made a good call for the UK.”

Similarly Emma Sinclair, founder and CEO of Target Parking, said: “Cameron may have done the UK a favour. Who wants to join a group that barring a few is in decline? Better to focus on the US, Brazil, China, India and Australia.” Rupert Cox, CEO of inward investment organisation Into Somerset, expressed similar sentiments, asking: “How many nations really want a European Union (EU) centrally dictated tax system, banking system and interest rates? I would suggest, not many!”

Grounds for concern

There were some areas for concern, primarily focusing on exchange rates . Rupert Cox alluded to this concern in saying that “the biggest risk to competitive trade and exports comes from the value of the respective currencies, so stability of the Euro is crucial”.

Hugh Williams, MD of international supply chain consultancy Hughenden Consulting, told us: “I am not aware of any company with which we have done business that looks at doing business with a country (or not) on purely a political basis.  Economic security, yes, as might be determined by extreme politics (such as a dictator) but even then trade continues.”

Jason Gaywood went further, telling our reporter: “The most important risk (to British business) is the Euro currency itself. Euro has already fallen against Sterling, and it would appear that if traders appear to be uncertain about the future of the Euro, Sterling could increase in value further. But that’s not great for UK trade – if Sterling appreciates in value, the cost of UK goods could go up, which is bad for exporters, particularly given the current trade deficit.”

Business as usual

However, the over-riding view was that Cameron’s walk out will have little practical bearing on the export prospects of UK entrepreneurs. Rupert Cox continued by insisting that “the UK will not be ostracised from European trade. Aside from all the rhetoric and ‘pub banter’ we love French Red Wine and they love our British Lamb”. Meanwhile Askar Sheibani said that those criticising Cameron for damaging UK trade were missing the point, saying that “people buy from you if your products and services are good, and you provide good value. I believe that (the reaction to Cameron’s walk-out) was just a big, huge media hype”.

Perhaps the final word should go to Sir William Sargent, a movie entrepreneur who has conquered Hollywood with his special effects business, and even won an Oscar. Sir William told us that “in the long-run, all of this will be irrelevant. The reality is we all need one another, and business is business. Whether we are in a common treaty or not, what will happen within the financial community will happen anyway, irrespective of the politics.

“It’s simple. If we’re good enough in our own sector, we’ll get the business. If we’re not, we won’t.”

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