Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North Business Leaders Debate Issue of Europe

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North Business Leaders Debate Issue of Europe

Article excerpt

Byline: EU ROBERT GIBSON robert.gibson@ncjmedia.co.uk

BUSINESS leaders from around the North East have gathered to debate the major issues surrounding Britain's relationship with the EU.

Following Prime Minister David Cameron's announcement of renegotiated terms and the setting of June 23 as the date for the referendum, a six-strong panel representing both the 'in' and 'out' camps shared their views on everything from the future of trade agreements through to immigration and the politics of the EU campaigns.

The event, organised by the The Journal and its sister paper The Gazette, also gave audience members the chance to pose their own questions and included several polls to gauge the dominant feelings of the room.

Following an introduction from Journal business editor Graeme Whitfield, proceedings kicked off with an address from guest speaker Dean Turner, UK economist for UBS AG.

Mr Turner told those gathered that, in the wealth management group's view, the chance of Brexit currently stood at around 30% - although the final outcome would be dependent on how the "don't knows" were swayed.

Should Britain remain part of the European Union, there would some fluctuation in the economy before it settled back down, he added. If it left, however, recession was possible and, while things would pick up, long-term growth potential may be hampered.

Representing the case for remaining in the EU, Lucy Armstrong, chief executive of The Alchemists, said that, given the North East's reliance on exports, personal feelings mattered less than responsibility to employees and the wider region.

"Most private businesses in the North East have a higher proportion of exports than elsewhere," she said. "Exporting is the primary reason why entrepreneurial businesses are able to grow." Gillian Marshall, chief executive of the Entrepreneurs' Forum, pointed out that the North East had benefitted a great deal over the years from the European Union and there could be no guarantee of continuing this level of support in the event of Brexit.

Businesses also needed more information on how the Northern Powerhouse agenda could be impacted by the outcome, she said. …

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