EU Referendum and Business: PM Visits UCS

We were delighted to welcome Prime Minister David Cameron onto UCS Ipswich campus yesterday, along with a host of local school students, UCS students, and staff.

The Prime Minister laid out the arguments to vote to stay in the EU at the upcoming referendum on Thursday 23 June, 2016. The three core points – economy, security, and strength – were brought home with key examples, including negotiating trade agreements with developing countries, the sharing of security information and deportation, and the ability to stand alongside a 500 million strong consumer group.

We were lucky enough to have three academic representatives of the Suffolk Business School in attendance – interim Head of School Professor Noel Smith, Deputy Head of School Dr Will Thomas, and Lecturer in Employment Development Suzanne Nolan. Below are their views on the event and referendum:

Professor Noel Smith on cooperation and culture:

While I’m very concerned about what is happening to the NHS and welfare state under his watch, I think the Prime Minister has got it right on Europe, and it was good to hear him put the positive case for Europe. It is important to be reminded that the EU was developed in response to global conflict – the Second World War. With global tensions mounting again, it seems rash and short-sighted to want be isolate ourselves.

Putting the positive case is important, but I would have liked a more robust critique of the Leave camp. Given that Euro-sceptic sentiment is often driven by concerns about migration, I would have liked to have asked whether leaving Europe would make the UK a less tolerant society?

Dr Will Thomas on trade and business:

From a trade point of the view the arguments in favour of EU membership seem clear. EU trade is responsible for almost 40% of our exports and 55% of our imports making it by far the single most important trading area for our businesses. Exit of the EU would bring tremendous uncertainty about the nature of future relationships with this trading block. In time, renegotiated agreements may allow for a degree of free-trade but this will come at a cost (the ‘membership fee’ for joining the European Economic Area). Our businesses will also have to abide by rules set in the EU but without a say in the way in which they are created or in their scope. Whilst it may be possible to negotiate suitable solutions to these issues, as things stand there is too much uncertainty to support withdrawal.

Suzanne Nolan on graduates and employability:

The EU is committed to developing the 2020 vision, including the aims for ‘smart, sustainable, inclusive growth’ through improved coordination of national and European policy. There are European-wide targets for improving access to Higher Education, and graduate employability that include the ‘New Skills for New Jobs’ initiative for better skills upgrading, anticipation and matching. In the UK, the skills gap among graduates and non-graduates is under constant scrutiny, and many feel it has grown in recent years. Remaining in the EU will not only allow greater cross-cultural access to education, but encourages the sharing of research into wider trends in the skills gap and support in closing this gap.

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