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In the 1990s, in the heyday of IT contracting, I got an opportunity to work with one of the offices of the European Union. During my stint, I met some good people and I enjoyed my time – but felt that the wider institution’s ambitions were not aligned to most British people.
My continued interest over the years led me to believe that the EU not only needs fundamental reform, but it is actually “unreformable”. So I have taken time out to make my views heard as the upcoming EU referendum is one of the most momentous political decisions in a generation.
It will affect every IT business, household, public service and, of course, our economy and democracy.
There are five important reasons why I think the British economy and IT companies would be better off without Brussels. These are:
1. The EU is expensive
Even to an IT person, there are many noughts with the EU – it costs us £18,000,000,000 per year, or £350m per week. With that, we could build a lot of infrastructure, such as decent roads, trains or even rural fibre.
EU costs will only go up based on support for the Euro project – especially if the UK economy continues to thrive against its EU partners. (The EU demanded an extra £3bn last year alone).
2. Bureaucratic EU regulations cost our businesses £90bn
I run IT outsourcing for small businesses, so I have seen first-hand how bureaucratic regulations affect entrepreneurial businesses, such as my own. Even the minutest change can cause chaos for businesses in terms of financial planning.
Last year, the EU changed VAT rules for those selling digital products and services, which meant that small businesses – some of which had never had to register for UK VAT before – had to negotiate the complexity of EU regulation.
3. IT businesses demand planned migration
Agile IT businesses I meet believe that to have sustained economic growth, we do need immigration. We need to hire the brightest and the best.
But, because of pressure from uncontrolled migration from the EU, the government is making it very tough to get individuals from other parts of the world.
This stifles our IT sector. Getting programmers from India – which is one of the few world markets able to provide the right kind of cost-effective resource – is nigh on impossible.
4. Economic control – better deals
The EU is a club biased towards the dominant economies and manufacturing industries of Europe, such as Germany. Academics like Patrick Minford of Cardiff University suggest that if the UK were free from the EU’s Common Tariff, we would instantly benefit from free trade and save costs worth 3% of GDP.
5. Kill the tax avoidance
The global multinational companies love the EU, especially the US conglomerates like Amazon and Facebook. Most people think this is because of the simplification with the common market – the truth, however, is rather different.
These type of global company, with expensive lawyers and accountants, can play the European rules to achieve tax avoidance on a massive scale. For example, €9tn flows through the Netherlands (about 10% of the annual output of the world economy) to tax havens which are helping companies such as Facebook pay less corporation tax than a small IT consultancy.
Peter Chadha is CEO of London-based business IT consultancy Dr Pete Technology Experts and deputy chairman of the London group of Business for Britain, a business group campaigning for a ‘leave’ vote in the 2016 referendum