[From original post on Equestrian Entrepreneurs Network March 29, 2016]
Since being able to vote at the age of 18, I have to admit, I have never taken much interest in politics after my first experience.
This first vote was for Labour, as a student just about to start university – Tony Blair’s famous speech ‘Education, Education, Education’ tipped me in their favour. So I was hugely disappointed when university students fared worse during his term in office with the introduction of tuition fees, making it harder for working class families to get into Further Education.
However politics never rattle the really successful entrepreneurs, they never blame politics for their business downfalls or struggles. In fact, many entrepreneurs have made their millions in times of economic uncertainty, as they are brave enough to swim upstream against the masses.
Lately, I’ve been taking a bit more notice of politics with the EU Referendum nicknamed ‘Brexit’, especially as I support equestrian businesses to grow and attract funding, and the EU is a major benefactor to rural development. So I attended a recent meeting with CLA (Country Land and Business Association) to start to understand the potential impact for Rural Businesses, and I’ve since took some time to research and seek out information that will help you to plan your vote.
So while no one can know precisely the impact of leaving the EU, here are some facts to consider:
Sport and culture
The EU has little direct role over sports policy in member states though it does provide some ‘limited’ funding to UK grassroots sport.
However, the rules in free movement will be the area that most affects athletes, coaches and grooms who are based in yards outside their home nation within the EU who maybe furthering their training.
David Morley who specialises in work permits for the Polo Industry says: “It is not yet clear what will happen if the exit does go ahead or whether UK nationals who are currently working in the EU will need a work permit or not?”
These EU residents could lose access to their free NHS treatment, which is currently free for those with a European health insurance card, so will this tempt people to return home? If we do leave, there will be decade’s worth of unpicking to the legislation and regulation.
The ‘Leave EU campaign’ is keen to promote new arrangements with growing economies and push for new global trade deals, could this lead to new opportunities for equestrian? David said: “With new trade deals also come new work permit arrangements, so it could open opportunities to work and train in other continents with ease”.
Connected Thinking has certainly noticed an appetite from countries outside the EU whose economies are growing, and are now looking to invest in their cultural, leisure and sporting portfolios. In the last year, we’ve had work including feasibility studies for new equestrian centres and sports development programmes from countries who look to the UK as a benchmark for equestrian sport.
New figures show that nearly 1,000 projects at 78 UK universities and research centres are dependent on funds from the European Research Council. The UK has more ERC-funded projects than any other country, and there have been several equestrian projects funded by the EU.
However, with equestrian being such as niche area we do benefit from advances being made that filter into our marketplace from other areas. One example I can think of are the compression suits that are being trialled by leading riders, there is evidence that EU funding has been used to research the properties of the fabric used to construct these garments.
Stephen Hawking has come out in favour of staying in the EU as he believes it will be a “disaster for science” even with the onerous EU regulations that govern clinical trials, which, it is claimed, impinge on innovation.
Imports and Exports
Many of the equestrian products produced in the UK are internationally renowned and in demand. The exit EU argument is that new trade deals will be easier to secure with growing economies when we are outside the EU. For the equestrian sector, this is great, as these new countries will be underdeveloped in their equestrian activities and there will be many new opportunities for manufacturers to export their goods to a new audience who have the disposable income to invest in leisure and sport.
At the latest National Equine Forum in London earlier this month, plans were announced for a new EU Regulation on equine identification, so watch this space for more news. And if the Schengen Agreement also comes into effect, which will mean the re-establishment of border controls within the EU, this will impact the ease and speed that equines can be moved across the borders both for competitions and imports/exports.
Salford City College is one of the equine higher education institutes to take advantage of the Erasmus+ scheme an EU programme that is based on a student exchange and offers opportunities for UK participants to study, work, volunteer, teach and train in Europe.
The scheme will allocate almost €1bn to the UK over seven years, with 250,000 people expected to undertake activities abroad with the programme, and so it no surprise that all universities in the UK are set against Brexit.
Between 2014 and 2020 farmers in the UK are due to receive £27.8bn in subsidies from the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP). This is to encourage farmers to protect and enhance the British countryside in areas such as land management, and the choice of crops they grow.
There is considerable doubt the rate of investment would be matched by the government, and the overwhelming vote at the CLA meeting I attended was to stay in the EU.
So with farming and equestrian rural enterprises often working in partnership, an exit could lead to increases in feed, roughage and bedding so the cost of horse ownership could increase. However, it may encourage other farmers to diversify into equestrian, such as livery yards or horse holidays and glamping giving owners additional opportunities, facilities and land to ride upon. This was certainly a trend we experienced when we spoke to Farmers on our stand at Farm and Business Innovation at the NEC last year.
Interesting unlike commercial organisations, charities have been blocked by the Charity Commission from taking a public view on the Referendum. Britain Stronger in Europe research says 249 charities received £217m from the EU in 2014, but many also receive government funding. So hence there is a conflict on political campaigning (as well as it being strongly opposed by their benefactors, whom may have a different political opinion).
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion and a board member of Britain Stronger in Europe, said on the matter: “Outside the EU, there is absolutely no guarantee that this vital contribution to British charitable work could or would be continued.”
I hope this brief analysis has given you a bit more insight into the EU Referendum and provided you with some information when it comes to voting on the 23rd June. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions below or in the Facebook group, as to how you think the equestrian sector could be impacted.
View the PDF from the CLA Brexit meeting by clicking here.