EU Referendum gives our Panel pause for thought

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Almost every day the looming EU referendum raises a challenge that would have to be tackled should Britain leave - or is that an opportunity?

Sheffield solicitors Wake Smith organised a debate on the burning issue of our times which certainly educated those attending - and may have helped some make up their minds.

For maximum scope, the firm invited a range of experts from sectors including manufacturing, accountancy, banking, charity, academia and, of course, law.

And despite in-depth knowledge of a huge range of subjects, most agreed the vote would be decided ‘on immigration’.

On the ‘Leave’ side voters want less immigration, while the Remainers fear the loss of cheap labour that many have come to rely on - as well as a source of fee-paying foreign students which pave the way to research funds.

For manufacturers, the equivalent of a recession is forecast, but wouldn’t it give us the chance to strike trade deals with Britain as the number one priority?

The uncertainty of life post Brexit meant no one around the table had planned for that eventually.

The future of peace in Europe came up and then another spectre was raised - a really close result prompting calls for a second vote.

Amid all the uncertainty it’s safe to say no-one would want that.

The discussion covered four points:

1 There is believed to be a one in three chance of coming out. What preparations have you made for a Brexit?

2 What decisions and investments have you put off pending the outcome of the Referendum?

3 What do you think the key implications for business in South Yorkshire would be if Britain votes to leave the EU?

4 A large part of the ‘out’ campaign’s argument is that Britain would be able to successfully negotiate new trade agreements with EU.

If Britain did vote to leave what would these need to look like from your point of view?

At the debate...

Mike Hirst, chairman and finance director, Swann Morton, Sheffield scalpel manufacturer

Richard Whiteley, managing director, Swann Morton

Chris Taylor, sales and marketing director, Swann Morton

Prof Peter Prowse, professor in human resource management and employment relations at Sheffield Hallam University

Zoe Fearnley, managing director, Ashton Seals Ltd

Ian Walker, managing director, Rotary Electrical Ltd

Paul Houghton, partner and head of the Sheffield office, Grant Thornton

Matthew Wilcox, audit senior manager, KPMG

Billy Greenhalgh, Agent PR

Clare Ibbotson, branch manager, Handelsbanken

James Lanchbery, Investec Wealth & Investment

Ray Boulger, chairman STEPS Rehabilitation

Terry Regan, Wake Smith Solicitors

Mark Serby, Wake Smith Solicitors

John Baddeley, Wake Smith Solicitors

Paul Gibbon, Wake Smith Solicitors

David Walsh, business editor, The Star