Ever since David Cameron announced the date of the EU referendum, the topic has rarely been out of the news. As the Tory party continues to bicker amongst itself, we take a break from comparing the conflicting views of old Etonians and ask garment decorators how they’ll be voting on 23 June
“I haven’t got a scooby,” is the response of Peter Joyce, managing director of London-based TOT Shirts when asked whether he’ll be voting in or out. Whereas the resounding response from suppliers – the garment and machinery brands and distributors – has been that leaving the EU would be detrimental, due in large part to the impact on the currency and the ending of free trade, it doesn’t appear to be so clear-cut for Images readers. And with a lot of the debate focusing on personalities and scare tactics rather than straightforward facts and figures, arriving at a considered decision is not a simple process.
Peter’s current indecision is because of what he says are the many pros and cons. “We do a lot of work for rock and roll tours. A lot of the boys I know say, ‘Oh yeah, when we go to Switzerland it’s a pain in the arse because we have to get all these papers to get the swag in and the swag out, whereas we don’t have to with the rest of Europe.’ One would assume that if we withdraw from the Union that that is going to become commonplace. If it becomes too difficult because the bureaucrats are stopping free movement, then what will happen is I think some of the bands might start looking for suppliers in Europe, which doesn’t suit me.
“On the other side, my thinking about leaving is that over the years the laws that they’ve passed make it very hard to employ people when they’re insisting on more holidays for them, more rights for this and that. It’s not that we don’t appreciate it, it’s that some of the restrictions tie your hands a bit.”
One person who was going to be voting out, if you’d spoken to him before David Cameron announced his deal in February to redraw the UK membership of the EU, was Phil Millar, managing director of Creative Apparel in Stockport. “Originally I wanted out of the EU. Then they started scaremongering, saying that if we do leave the EU then all these things could happen. My original reason for getting out of the EU was we spend £10 billion in it and we get probably a few billion back. We seem to be putting more in than other countries. But at the moment I’m listening to the fear factor and I’m saying stay in at the moment.”
Ian Widdowson, owner of embroidery company Premier in Nottingham, will definitely be voting yes, although he does acknowledge that there are issues with the EU. “While I understand the prevailing concerns about the EU bodies being overly bureaucratic – and at times undemocratic – I am generally pro-EU. I believe from a business point of view we are better off in. Business relies on financial stability, certainty and free trade. Leaving the EU would potentially do irreparable harm to financial stability and our trading relationships in Europe could be significantly harmed.”
It’s a view backed very emphatically by Chris Bentley, managing director of The Stitch Factory in Sheffield. “I think leaving would be the nail in the coffin for the UK. It will mean the break-up of the union as Scotland will have their excuse to leave us. It will mean 10 years of hard-fought negotiation over trade agreements we already have in place. It will be the end of the tens of thousands of non-resident Europeans that have done major jobs in this country for many years and don’t have a clue if they will be able to stay here without the absurd citizenship exam that even I would fail after being born here and living 49 years here.
“We will lose many European partnerships with many controlling manufacturers. We will cease to be an important country to anyone and will end up leaving the G7. We won’t even be involved in the European effort to effect important environmental issues. We will become a has-been and not somewhere I want to be for the next 10 years.”
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