If the UK leaves the EU: what does this mean for the events industry?

Is an EU Exit good or bad for our industry?

16 October 2014
David Cameron has promised a referendum on British membership of the European Union in 2017 if the Conservatives win outright at the next general election. The biggest public poll to date found 41% are in favour of staying, 41% are in favour of leaving and 18% are undecided. PHR has a brief look at three possible impacts along with their subsequent repercussions to the event industry if the UK chooses a “no to Europe” vote.

Firstly, it is regarded that many of the world’s leading economies view the UK as the Gateway into Europe. Could an exit affect this status for the UK and its events industry? It is entirely plausible that event organisers may prefer to arrange their events within member states, where there is access to a wider audience and streamlined trade policies. While this could be an issue, it must also be stressed that a country so close in proximity to Europe, yet effectively free from EU restrictions, may in fact attract organisers who for whatever reason prefer not to comply with EU laws and regulations. Moreover, could the UK without the EU regulation, implement its own legislation that in fact attracts increased levels of event and conference business to the country?

Secondly, a UK departure from the EU would naturally bring with it levels of financial uncertainty for both foreign investors and for the financial rating of the UK itself.  Low business confidence often has a habit of hitting the meetings and events market particularly hard. A trend which again proved itself true during the latest recession. A period of business uncertainty could pave the way for a downward spiral of conference and event expenditure into the UK. Although this may be a possibility, it must also be suggested that business and investment decisions are not made solely around whether a country is in the EU or not. Organisers are swayed by multiple factors including business taxes, a skilled labour force, political stability and government subsidies which all play an important part. Arguably more importantly, the UK even as an independent country should always hold an attraction as a hub over many other EU countries, simply because of the proven history of delivering above-expected results.

Finally, the UK is already behind many countries and territories in regard to event numbers and facilities. One only has to look at the US dominating the world’s events industry, the Middle East becoming a world hub for conference and travel luxury and Asia, which is predicted to overtake US event expenditure by late 2015. Would a separation from the EU all but destroy what exposure the UK already has as a conference capital of the world? It is naturally in the interest for the UK to stay by the rule of safety in numbers, ensuring the UK sees its fair share of events and conference expenditure. Yet this may not be an issue, as Iconic cities including London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester all boast an array of venues. One only has to look at the standard of conferencing facilities, accommodation and production services across the country to see that we are a destination of choice for both European and delegates from further a field, even as an Independent Country.

Both a yes and no vote to Europe brings with it equal levels of opportunity and risk to the UK events industry. We will have to wait to see (if ever given the opportunity) what the result and subsequent positive and negative ramifications are.
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