It may all be over next week, but the EU Referendum will be the defining moment of David Cameron's premiership. That said, it's not just the Prime Minister's legacy - or career - which is staked on our hotly debated membership. Chancellor George Osborne has zealously campaigned for Britain to remain in the European Union, suggesting we face economic Armageddon should we vote to leave. Just this week, he steamed ahead with what can only be described as an own goal: a menacing Budget with £30bn of tax rises and cuts that he would "have" to pass if Britain leaves the EU. Within hours, it had been voted down by 57 Conservative MPs.
The Referendum may be tearing Tories apart, but they are surprisingly united in their views on what's best for British business: they may want "us" out, but they also want "them" in. According to a YouGov survey of MPs from across the House of Commons commissioned by The Entrepreneurs Network and Bircham Dyson Bell, 86 per cent of Conservative MPs support foreign entrepreneurs moving to the UK, and over half want to make it easier for entrepreneurs to hire skilled workers from abroad. This latter support has grown 18 percentage points on last year's poll, even though Referendum debates have grown ever bloodier.
Conservative MPs may think a Brexit would benefit UK entrepreneurship (according to the survey, more than two thirds believe that withdrawing would be a positive move), but that sentiment is not always reflected within the entrepreneurial community. Earlier this month we ran a poll of entrepreneurs, which revealed that 41 per cent think leaving would be positive for UK entrepreneurship, compared to 48 per cent who thought it would be negative.
Campaigners for Remain and Leave are eager to ally themselves with entrepreneurs. And rightly so - their opinion matters. Entrepreneurial companies drive innovation, enable market disruption, are more efficient, and generate a disproportionate share of employment and productivity growth. To a greater extent than much of the population, entrepreneurs are more tuned into the factors that will impact Britain's future economic success. They are all too aware of the risks of leaving the EU: almost nine in ten small businesses with a presence in overseas markets sell to EU-based companies.
As to be expected, the vast majority of Labour MPs (97 per cent) believed that leaving the EU would have a negative impact on entrepreneurial activity in the UK, and a large proportion (84 per cent) also agreed that allowing easier movement of entrepreneurs to the UK would be a positive thing.
We at The Entrepreneurs Network are undecided about whether of not Britain would be better of staying in or leaving the European Union. But we have grown increasingly frustrated with the anti-immigration rhetoric wielded by the Leave campaign. Despite what some Faragists would have you believe, immigration is good for Britain. The data show that immigrants don't take natives' jobs, don't depress wages, and pay more in tax than they take out in services. What's more, they are extremely entrepreneurial. Around half of Silicon Valley tech startups, for example, have at least one immigrant as a key founder.
Whatever the outcome, entrepreneurial activity will continue to improve the lives of individuals and communities across the country. The government must put policies in place to ensure that our entrepreneurs continue to prosper - In or Out.
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