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EU referendum: Should we stay or should we go?

With the EU referendum fast approaching, Andrew Burnham, partner at MHA MacIntyre Hudson, sheds some light on both camps with a travel industry slant


Andy Burnham of MHA MacIntyre Hudson sheds some light on the arguments from either side of the EU debate

On June 23, British voters head to the polls to decide whether we stay in the EU or leave it.

With just days remaining for floating voters to make up their minds, here is my travel perspective on the issues ahead.

I write this with a clear warning that there are no precedents to look back at; no one has ever left the EU before and no one really knows what will happen if we do vote to leave.

Both the Stay and the Leave campaigns appear to be based on what will happen if we don’t vote for them, and neither side seems willing to accept anything the other says.

What is likely is that if the polls continue to show a very close race, immediately before and possibly after, depending on the outcome, there may be volatility in the currency markets.

It is clear that the City does not like uncertainty, perhaps a poll showing strong support one way or another ahead of the vote might reduce this risk In or out, it is clear that the UK government intends to proceed with the introduction of the new 2015 EU Directive on Package Travel, although the referendum has meant the government feels unable to launch its consultation paper until the vote is over.

This is likely to ensure the government will follow the wording of the Directive very closely due to the lack of time to make changes, which may not benefit the travel industry as it leaves many finer points open to interpretation and that is not what the industry needs.


Claim confusion

If we do leave, one of the first casualties may be the benefits of EU261, which gives passengers rights if airlines overbook, cancel or delay flights.


This regulation is automatically enforceable in all EU countries without any additional legislation but UK passengers may well find airlines denying claims after June 23 if the vote is to leave.


The European Health Insurance card, which gives free or reduced cost medical care, could also come to an end if the UK is unable to negotiate a deal with the rest of the EU.

Norway voted twice, in 1994 and 2004, not to join the EU but recognises around one-fifth of EU laws and enjoys freedom of movement for its citizens.

Those who propose we should leave suggest Norway is a good example of a country surviving successfully outside the EU; the opposition suggests it has the worst of both worlds, having to pay into the EU without having any representation at all at Brussels.


Jobs jeopardy

One of the areas that the EU has influenced in recent years is employment law, many of the employment benefits enjoyed (or suffered depending on your views) come from Brussels and the Leave campaigners suggest an exit will make life much simpler for employers and therefore encourage more employment.


Stay campaigners, however, point out that 20,000 Europeans currently work in the travel industry in the UK and hundreds of thousands more in other industries.


Leaving the EU may result in many of them having to leave the UK and create an employment nightmare.


At the end of the day, it is likely members of the travel industry will make the decision based on personal rather than industry issues, and that makes predictions even harder than a normal election.


If we leave the EU, duty free comes back on flights to Europe but so do the duty free limits, so which do you prefer: cheaper alcohol or more alcohol? The choice is yours.

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