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Business owners review the EU referendum debate

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After our #SageDebateEU event we asked our bloggers to give us their key takeaway points from the conference. Take a look at what they have to say;

Ola Agbaimoni | @OlaAgbaimoni

The tone of the debate was set by Stephen Kelly, Sage CEO, when he said that Sage’s aim was to ensure small businesses were provided with quality impartial information, so that they could make an informed decision.

Statistics obviously supported the speaker’s position and therein lies the problem. It’s not possible to be impartial about the merits of remaining or exiting the EU. Whether that is economically or politically; or from the stand point of reducing overall immigration, securing our boarders or protecting us from terrorists. We can make the decision to leave or remain, but there are no guarantees.

The other poignant thought, made by Herb Kim, came from a global perspective. Herb’s point was: on the world stage, people see the UK as a country where multiculturalism is celebrated, is outward looking and is a nation that embraces opportunities rather than retreats from them. In his view, voting to leave runs the risk of sending the opposite message. This would be bad for business and bad for international relations.

I didn’t go into the debate undecided. However, the snap shot poll at the end of the debate seem to suggest that the arguments for leaving were made more persuasively.

Antoinette Oglethorpe | @antoinetteog

#SageDebateEU was a great event, well organised with knowledgeable and eloquent panellists. My key takeaways were these:

  1. Our region (North East) currently benefits in a number of ways from the UK being a member of the EU – ERDF funding of our 5 universities, small businesses (especially tech start-ups) benefitting from EU funding, access to EU skills and talent
  2. The Leave campaign says that the region will be stronger and wealthier if we leave the EU because we will “take back control”
  3. But no-one knows what will really happen if we leave the EU. The only thing that can be guaranteed is uncertainty. And uncertainty destabilises an economy.

The situation seemed to be well summed up by a tweet from @GarYoung “Seems to me that much of the choice is about ‘stick’ with imperfection or ‘twist’ hoping to create a better UK in the future” And so I guess there must have been a few gamblers in the audience who like to take a risk since the vote to leave increased during the debate.

Janice B Gordon | @Janicebg

#SageDebateEU is worth watching especially if you are a #smallbiz in the #NorthEast. I loved the contribution from Lucy Armstrong, she is fabulously down to earth – she gets my vote using analogies like ‘I do not like everything that happens in my swimming club but I am not going to stop swimming’. The North East consensus was that they felt Westminster cannot be trusted to redistribute what accounts for only 10% of the annual NHS budget, if we voted exit.

Julie Johnson | @stepin2success

It was refreshing to hear panellists on both sides of the EU debate acknowledging that the yes/no decision is not a simple question, but a complex series of questions to be grappled with. There was no mud-slinging or scare-mongering, only an intelligent and balanced debate, with panellists on both sides acknowledging good points before countering, and treating the audience like mature adults…something politicians on both sides could learn from!

I was particularly struck by Lucy Armstrong’s comment that the issues are so varied that each individual can approach from multiple angles – as a parent, worker or business owner, or from a local or national perspective – and that has rarely been explored. This resonates with my own thinking that the referendum question is about so much more than me as an individual, a small business owner or British citizen. It’s about human beings, international relations, and world security and stability.

I want us to be involved in trying to improve life for everyone, not just for ourselves. That’s why I’ll be voting remain on June 23rd.

Watch the debate again online.

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