THE BLOG

Britexit? No Thanks

12/11/2015 16:12 GMT | Updated 12/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Now the Prime Minster has set out his red lines on EU reform, the real debate can start on the future of the UK's membership of the European Union.

But the thing to bear in mind is that it's not just a domestic discussion - the truth is that the implications of the PM's demands are being followed across the globe. As CEO of a global trade body (that just so happens to be based in the UK), I am constantly asked by colleagues what will happen. From Washington to Warsaw there is real interest in how the Brits will vote.

Fur and fashion is an international trade and nearly all my business contacts find it hard to understand why the UK would even contemplate going it alone. Most mainland Europeans simply despair at the negative attitude coming from the UK media and express disappointment at the general Eurosceptic tone of even those that have previously declared support for Europe.

Yes, there is a certain amount of envy at the increasingly strong UK economy and many agree reform is needed, but time and time again they tell me that the Britexit would be a disaster for both Europe and the UK.

Across the pond, Americans I've spoken with don't like the idea of their oldest allies losing influence with their neighbours - which they assume is what will happen with an exit vote. Meanwhile in Asia all the talk is of working towards closer alliances, free trade agreements and balancing export and imports with Europe. Taking the UK out of these deals makes no sense at all.

Most businesses also seem to be against leaving the EU. It's hardly a surprise, really, as a quick look at the fur sector will testify. We're at the leading edge of working in complex markets across languages, currencies and cultural differences, so we welcome any and all institutions that can help close these differences. The fur products value chain criss-crosses the globe many times, with products starting on a farm in Denmark or Finland, being dressed in Hong Kong, manufactured in Germany and finally sold in Macy's of New York.

In my role I, like many other businesses, need the EU to help make that work and we need mutually beneficial trade deals between the EU and other big trading regions. It makes practical and financial sense that the entire globe works towards the principle of free trade, because it gives both choice and employment consumers and suppliers alike.

In truth, I don't believe the debate coming up will really be about EU reforms; the reality is that it's about whether we stay in or get out. And to the UK that means, do you believe in working closer together or going alone?

All my experience working in international trade is that the world is getting smaller and smaller, with omnipresent demand for goods and the ability for even the smallest businesses in one country to sell online to customers on the other side of the world. The UK will look very isolated if it jumps off now, which doesn't bode well for a country that still likes to think itself as a global hub.