In or out? Remain or leave? The question is a simple one, but rarely has there been such fevered debate around any topic as there has been about the upcoming EU referendum. With just over a week to go until the votes are cast, it would seem that no one is entirely certain as to which way the vote will swing. A damning indictment of two poorly orchestrated campaigns both beset by dubious propaganda and petty infighting, or simply a true reflection of public hand-wringing over the most important political and economic decision in a generation?
It’s not for us to say which way we’d like the vote to go, but it’s imperative that we give our clients a voice. Contractors, freelancers, and the self-employed make a huge contribution to the UK economy but it seems little consideration has been given to how a Brexit would impact their way of working. As David Cameron recently noted, “the self-employed are a key part of our long-term economic plan for the country” and we believe their views should not be ignored.
We recently sent out a survey to our customer base asking a few key questions. Will they be heading to the polls? How will they be voting? Are they worried about the impact a Brexit would have on their jobs and businesses, or are they looking forward to a new dawn?
As you can see in our infographic above, the debate rages on. Voting was close, with many passionate advocates adamant that remaining in the EU was the best way forward, but with an almost equal amount strongly arguing that a Brexit was best for them and best for the UK in general. Interestingly, a small proportion of contractors remain undecided with 7 days to go. Whilst the overall number of those on the fence might seem trivial at 12%, they could be the difference between remaining in or leaving the EU. It would seem that both camps still have much to do in their final week, and that there’s still significant potential for the vote to swing one way or the other.
What else did we take away from the survey? Contractors are a confident group, and rightly so. Specialists in their chosen fields, they are confident that their skills will remain in demand whether Britain is part of the EU or not. The widely discussed skills shortage may have consequences for certain industries in the future, but our clients are aware that their unique skillsets make them valuable assets to many companies. As one commenter noted: “I believe I have the skills to survive any short term economic fallout.”
It was also heartening to see that those contractors who were worried about the potential ramifications of a Brexit weren’t content to simply rest on their laurels. Many spoke of the need to adapt. As one participant noted: “If it does impact my business then I will have to evolve.” It’s that tireless spirit that has made the contracting community as strong as it is today. Their innovation and drive provide the foundations on which the great businesses of tomorrow are built.
Many contractors believe that a Brexit would have a negative impact on the UK’s financial stability in the short-term, but a large proportion of them also believe that the country would recover in the long-term to a stronger position than ever before. It should be noted that there was some concern about the prospect of countries still within the EU being more reluctant to trade with the UK if it was to leave, as well as the fear of there being less work available in the UK if EU-based countries were to withdraw from their UK operations in the event of a Brexit.
It’s also worth noting that 66% of those who plan on voting to remain would consider moving their business out of the UK in the event of a Brexit, and 53% of all contractors surveyed believe that a Brexit would make it harder for them to use their skills abroad. Many cite logistical and administrative issues as their main concern, with much of the discussion centered on the increased difficulty of obtaining the right visas, paperwork, and work permits, as well as the potential clampdown on ease of movement throughout the EU.
Of course, nobody can predict completely one way or the other what the future holds, and many contractors felt unable to come to any concrete conclusions beyond speculation. It’s safe to say that, although we have an idea of what may happen in the event of a Brexit, we will never truly know the consequences (whether good or bad) until it actually happens.
We’ll be paying close attention as the numbers roll in on the 23rd and 24th June. You’ll be able to find our coverage here on our blog and on our Twitter feed. Whatever the outcome, Kingsbridge Contractor Insurance will continue to support and lend our voice to the contracting community, and we look forward to remaining a part of it as it continues to grow stronger and stronger.