The campaigning is almost over... in just a few days we decide if we want to be part of the EU or not. I've tried to remain non partisan during the whole debate but as a small business owner in the creative sector I wanted to share a few thoughts on the subject before we all take to the polls.
One of Britain's key strengths is our Creative Industries. We are talking about something that generated£84 Billion for the UK economy in 2014 and is growing year on year. As our manufacturing and heavy industries decline the creative industries are flourishing and are only likely to become more and more important to our economy in the future. Fashion design, advertising, publishing, software development, modelling, art, music, acting, graphic design - these are just a few of the creative businesses that thrive in our country.
But if you look at any of these industries, you will find that many people working in them come from all over Europe and indeed the world. We are a global hub for the creative industries - we attract the best and the brightest who are helping to make sure that these industries grow every year. The Creative Industries in this country succeed because of the simple fact we attract some of the finest creative minds from all over Europe and a restriction on immigration is going to unquestionably damage the talent pool available to our creative businesses.
Of course, Brexiters will tell you that they don't have a problem with immigration at all, that it's about the quality of immigrants that we let in by. The solution that generally seems to be accepted by the Leave campaign is to use some kind of points based system to make sure we only let top quality immigrants into our land of milk and honey. But how exactly do we define 'quality'? After all, creativity isn't something that can be ticked off on a questionnaire?
But how will the Brexit gatekeepers decide if you're worthy of entry? Is it based on Education? Work history? Verbal Interview? Maybe it will just come down to having enough money in your bank account. The truth is that nobody knows - not even the people proposing a points based system - but one thing is for sure: when you try to create one rule for everyone it inevitably fails.
Is this how a points based immigration system would work?
Leave supporters will tell you that we need more skilled workers and less coffee shop workers, but what doesn't seem to have registered with them is that many immigrants working in coffee shops and restaurants are our future skilled workers - they are creatives taking any work they can get while they look for their big break. Anyone who has ever worked in a creative industry will happily tell you that it takes years of hard work to break into your dream career.
Many people come to the UK to make a name for themselves in the creative industries - a points based system will almost certainly stop that in its tracks. The fact is that we'll be in a situation where unless people are already successful they won't get into the country. Future entrepreneurs and creative talent will be turned away, something that will ultimately harm us.
Are we going to say that we don't care if you could be the next Richard Branson, Vivienne Westwood or Cara Delevigne - it's not how much money you could make for our economy in the future, unless you already have made it you aren't getting in? If that's the case then what will we be left with? Probably another city in the EU taking all the best and brightest creative talent while we fall behind in yet another industry.
Because ultimately what Brexit comes down to is about isolating ourselves from the rest of the world again. All that Winston Churchill, Rule Britannia, Bulldog Spirit rhetoric that the Leave campaign love to use is about invoking that old feeling that Britain is somehow better than the rest of the world. Yes, we had a good run a couple of hundred years ago but the world has changed; if you want something from someone you don't just sail over, whack them over the head and take it - you have to work together to achieve a common goal.
At Sapphires Model Management we recruit models from all over Europe who come here to work with clients in the UK. You might not think that modelling is a talent per se, but models still do a job that not everyone can do. I can't tell you that I can definitely find the best models from the UK if we close our borders to EU migrants, it's just not possible. Model agencies in this country need models to be able to travel from all over the EU to the UK to ensure that our country has the best talent available for our clients across the world.
London, Paris and Milan are the fashion capitals of Europe but If London suddenly pulls out of the EU and models from the EU can no longer work in the UK with such ease then what do you think will happen? Mosty likely, clients and models from the rest of Europe will simply bypass the UK and go elsewhere in order to avoid the paperwork and headaches involved with working with a country outside the EU.
So please when you go to the polls on June 23rd think about the bigger picture. Britain is stronger as a country that can attract the best and brightest from overseas before they make it big elsewhere. At the moment we are renowned all over the world a country that will always give people a chance to show what they do - if we stop letting them in until they have already made it then the chances are they won't come here at all, which will only be harming us and our economy.