Europe needs swagger

Britain in the EU? UK's industries have their say

On June 23, all eyes will be on the U.K. as Britons decide whether they want to stay in the European Union (EU) or end their membership with the economic and political bloc.

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As the day draws closer, CNBC's "Europe Needs Swagger" special report looks at what key sectors have been saying about a "Brexit", and what it would possibly mean for them.


More than 150 fellows of the Royal Society, including Stephen Hawking and three Nobel laureates signed their names to a letter in March, which outlined why the U.K. science sector benefited from its EU membership.

"If the UK leaves the EU and there is a loss of freedom of movement of scientists between the UK and Europe, it will be a disaster for UK science and universities," the letter reads.

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.
Brexit would be ‘disaster for UK science’: Scientists warn

In the letter received by The Times, academics went on to add that increased funding had greatly aided U.K. and European scientific research, adding that many of the industry's "best researchers" come from continental Europe.


The Bank of England has made sure it stays out of the political debate, telling CNBC it would not be offering a comment on its stance.

Minutes from the central bank's latest policy meeting last Thursday said however that a vote to leave might result in "an extended period of uncertainty about the economic outlook", such as on its export growth. A vote to leave could have an impact on other areas such as the exchange rate and labor market regulation, the institution added.

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Chief executives from a number of top European banks, including Credit Suisse and HSBC, have been more forward with their remarks, saying that the U.K. would be "better off" in a reformed EU.

Barclays CEO Jes Staley told CNBC exclusively in March that staying as part of the EU would be "the best thing for Barclays customers" and corporate clients.

Not all leading figures in the finance and insurance sector want the U.K. to stay in the EU, however.

In a letter published by the Vote Leave campaign, business leaders such as HSBC's ex-chief Michael Geoghegan; Vault Capital's founder; and CompareGroup Ltd's founder; said they would back the pro-exit campaign.

The campaign also noted that a recent YouGov poll showed that only 14 percent of 1,002 small and medium-sized businesses surveyed saw the EU as making it easier for their business to hire employees.


The impact of Britain leaving the EU could be "phenomenal" on businesses, due to uncertainty, the CEO of a U.K. lingerie brand explained to CNBC in February.

"From a business perspective: it's for growth, I mean who wouldn't want to have access to 500 million potential customers and trade freely throughout the EU," Jacqueline Gold, Ann Summers CEO said.

Staying in EU is a ‘no brainer’: CEO

"Looking at my own business, it takes time to set up partnerships, to build trust. … (A possible Brexit could mean) increased costs, increased workload and indeed my main concern is the uncertainty and the impact that it would have on the consumer, which wouldn't just be a one-off," Gold added.

In February, around 200 business leaders signed a letter – received by The Times – saying a "Brexit" would put the U.K. "economy at risk", with companies needing "unrestricted access" to the European market so they can invest, create jobs and inevitably to grow. Retail bosses who said they were pro-EU, came from the likes of Asda, Diageo, Ann Summers, Burberry and Kurt Geiger.

In March, some 250 business leaders signed a letter supporting the "Vote Leave" campaign. Retail bosses listed included the chairs of pub chain JD Wetherspoon and café chain Patisserie Valerie.

In addition, John Mills, the chairman of consumer products company, JML Group, told CNBC in March that the EU was a "very expensive club" for the U.K. to be in.


‘Huge travesty’ if UK falls out with EU: Co-founder

Leading tech organizations have examined the "Brexit" topic, with many surveys – such as those from Silicon Valley Bank, Tech London Advocates, and Coadec – showing that most start-ups want the U.K. to remain in the EU.

"It would be a huge travesty if we fall out with the EU," Alex Depledge, Coadec's chairman, told CNBC in March, adding that for the U.K. to have anything comparable to the U.S., it needs the EU and its 500 million consumers and businesses.

Depledge went on to add that it would be a bad idea to withdraw, as it could "seriously hurt" digital businesses, with a Coadec survey showing 81 percent of tech start-up respondents wanted to stay. In that survey, those wanting to remain believed that access to the single market, free labor movement and harmonized regulations overshadowed the concerns surrounding Europe.

Travel and Tourism

In March, travel industry body ABTA, released a report with help from Deloitte on what a "Brexit" would mean for British travel.

Results suggest there could be a number of negative impacts if the U.K. left, such as effects on the sector's employment, the strength of U.K. sterling, and potentially even increased costs for the British travelling consumer.

Matt Cardy | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Looking at the results, ABTA's CEO Mark Tanzer said the potential risks didn't match with an equal upside for travelers, saying a leave would lead to "uncertainties" for the U.K.

The U.K.'s official tourism agency, VisitBritain told CNBC it wouldn't speculate on the debate's outcome. In a statement, the firm added that visitors from the EU account for over two-thirds of Britain's visitor numbers, providing just less than 50 percent of spending.


"(The U.K.'s) EU membership benefits the UK food and farming industry by giving easy access to the world's largest single market of 500 million consumers, which accounts for 60% of our food and drink exports worth £11.5 billion," a spokesperson from the U.K. government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), said in a statement, emailed to CNBC.

"The single market brings significant investment and jobs to the UK and means our businesses have a level playing field with common standards on welfare, safety and labelling. British farming is stronger, safer and better off in a reformed European Union."

EU Referendum: Official campaigns kick off

The Organic Farmers & Growers body sees potential "serious risks" for U.K. organic food producers if the U.K. chooses to leave, with the uncertainty leading to possible trade tariffs and less opportunities.

The main concern for the agricultural community however, is that it needs more information ahead of the debate to see what a future without the EU would be, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said recently. On Monday, the NFU council officially announced that - with the evidence it currently has - farmers' interests are "best served" by remaining in the EU.

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