These were three of the headlines that typified the style of reporting that took place: Brexit could slash sterling by 20%; Brexit could return Britain to being 'dirty man of Europe’; Brexit could very easily lead to the break-up of Britain. You’ll notice one word that is common to all three headlines – it’s the word ‘could’.
Therein lies the problem with Brexit, it’s a subject that lends itself to conjecture rather than fact. No-one has much idea of what a British exit from the European Union would really look like, and that uncertainty opens the door to lobbyists with vested interests to promote. The result is hysterical discussion from polarised groups at either end of the spectrum.
This is a source of huge frustrations for manufacturers, who have genuine fears that need addressing. The booming car industry, for instance, has questions over what Brexit might mean for export tariffs. Aerospace giant Airbus - with plants in Bristol and north Wales - has voiced concerns about the additional bureaucracy that any break-up might have on its business. JCB, on the other hand, thinks Brexit could reduce its administrative load and wants the benefits of departure discussed without the level of scaremongering seen to date. These are important topics, yet they get obscured by smoke and mirrors.
What’s needed is a more considered, informed approach to the subject of Brexit – from political, trade and legal points of view. That’s why an event taking place on 3 March in London is to be welcomed. Britain’s Future in Europe looks like it could be one of the first serious attempts to discuss Brexit in a calm and measured way.
The half-day event, taking place on 3 March at the Carpenters’ Hall in London, has attracted a range of high-profile speakers, including Dr Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister; Juergen Maier, chief executive at Siemens UK; and Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Additional speakers include Lord Peter Mandelson; Lord David Owen, independent social democrat peer; Matthew Elliott, chief executive of Business for Britain; Nicola Horlick, chief executive of Money & Co; and Alan Halsall, CEO of Silver Cross.
The speaker and panel line-up isn’t weighted towards either the ‘in’ or ‘out’ campaign. It’s a good mix of those from both sides of the fence, along with others with an open mind.
The time for misinformation about Brexit needs to come to an end. And Britain’s Future in Europe provides a useful starting point for more balanced conversations to begin.
* For more information on Britain’s Future in Europe, organised by the German British Forum, go to www.gbf.com/conference/britains-future-in-europe-gbf-conference-2016/
Lee Hibbert is Content Director for Technical Associates Group