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What does the Brexit mean for you? Your questions answered

Brexit: Your questions answered

Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU, there are more questions than ever over what this means for the British people. In a time of confusion and fear, concrete answers are hard to come by.

Peter Burgess, Managing Director of Retail Human Resources (RHR), answers some key questions on what the Brexit will mean for those of us who work in retail. Peter started his career in retail management at the age of 18 and spent ten years with Russell & Bromley before launching RHR in 1988. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Personnel and Development and holds an MBA from the London Business School.

If you have any concerns or questions for Peter, please leave a comment below.


Q: I am an EU immigrant and I have only been here one year working as a sales assistant. Will I have to leave the UK?

A: Absolutely not. There has never been any questions of those EU immigrants already located here having to return.


Q: Does this mean that there will be no immigrants from the EU?

A: Again, absolutely not.  In fact in my view nothing will change whether we are in or out.  All that will change is we will in fact be entitled to restrict it if we want to. During 2015, 330,000 immigrants came into the UK, half of which were from outside the EU. The Government already had the right to restrict this but didn’t because the immigration is essential for the functioning of our economy. If all immigration stopped, the economy would be in permanent recession.


Q: Canada has got a free trade agreement with the EU, so surely we will get the same. Why is there such a fuss and worry?

A: Firstly, it took Canada seven years to negotiate that deal. But it is extremely likely that the UK will get the same deal if not better. What we will *not* get is access to the single market, which is worth so much more.

Q: What is the difference between a free trade agreement and the single market?

A: Free trade means that no tariffs are placed on either side. The single market means that those within it can trade in each other’s countries without any of the formalities of, say, setting up a local company. All the rules, say on health and safety, consumer rights etc., are all the same.  When they are different, there is a cost.

Furthermore, it is easy for countries to place conditions on the sale of certain goods that can prejudice those who are not part of the single market. Indeed the job of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is to enforce the rules and ensure that countries within the single market don’t try to set up artificial barriers.


Q: Is it possible that the UK could negotiate access to the single market without being a member state?

A: Yes – Norway and Sweden both have this. But, they have to pay substantial sums into the EU for this privilege and they do not get a chance to shape the rules.


Q: Is it true that we spend more with the EU than they do with us?

A: Yes it is.


Q: So, surely it is the case that they will negotiate a good deal with us?

A: Yes they will. But they will not and cannot give us a better deal on the outside than we had on the inside, for this would inevitably lead to the disintegration of the EU itself. Why would the member states give us a better deal than they have themselves?


Q: So are there any advantages of coming out of the EU?

A: There are four principle suggested advantages put forward by the Leave campaign:
By far the politically most potent is the control of immigration. I would say however that this has been misrepresented. Having control doesn’t necessarily mean that control will be exercised.  As said earlier, it was not exercised on non-EU immigration which is far more controversial.
 We will regain control of our laws. However, this is not true. What most of us regard as our laws is the criminal law. That is those things rules that govern our day to day lives like, how fast you can drive, through to what sentence a mugger gets in court. The EU has no control over this part of our law at all. The only aspect of our law making that they influence is where it affects trade or the community as a whole. There are a few environmental issues that are perhaps irritating, but in the main we have always opted out of legal provisions we don’t like.
• We will be free to enter into agreements with other countries on our own, whereas currently we can only do this through the EU. This is true.  You have to ask yourself who would have most weight, however – the largest market in the world, (the EU) at 500 million people, or Britain on its own at 65 million.

• We will be free from EU bureaucracy…Although we won’t. If we sign up to a trade deal, we will have to follow the rules. It would be fair to say these rules will probably be less intrusive.


Q: How long will it take to formally leave?

A: No one knows because no one has left before. A minimum for two years after the Government has serviced notice to leave. However it will take a decade to unravel the way we are so integrated with the EU and that won’t be cheap.


Q: How will this affect the retail industry?

A: It seems very likely at this point that there will be a recession and that will affect everyone. Also, with a very weak pound it will mean that buying goods from abroad will be much more expensive. This will be slightly offset by the influx of more tourists as we will be relatively cheap to visit compared to other countries.


Q:  What will happen when I travel abroad?

A: In the near future, there will be no travel restrictions but with a weak pound it will be much more expensive. Typically, expect to pay between 20% and 30% more for your foreign holidays and everything when you get there will be the same % again more expensive.


Q: What will happen to all the money we pay into the EU that we don’t get back?

A: This is roughly £8 billion per year. Given that the recession will cost the treasury at least £40bn in lost tax revenues this will be swallowed up for the next four years. Since just about every economist on the planet expects the UK economy to grow more slowly, we will never recover this sum.  In any event, it is likely that the EU will insist we still pay something in return for free trade or access to the market.

What are your thoughts on the Brexit? Do you have questions? Let us know in the comments.

Peter Burgess

Wednesday, 29 June 2016 at 8:55am

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Will the NHS receive the extra money that has been talked about

Posted by Sharon Cooke at 11:19am

These answers have got a strong pro E.U air about them, hardly looking at the positives of being independent. Appears to be written by a "Remain" campaigner.

Posted by A Tulsian at 9:52pm

What about when we trade our stocks to them won't they have to pay us the prices we deserve and won't they get extra charges the same as us so what ever you said negative about Britain the same goes the other way ?

Posted by MelissaRees at 8:12am

Indeed these comments are for remaining. It is difficult to find any positives since every claim made by the leave campaign has now been acknowledged by them as false. Almost every economist in then world and the leader of every country in the world thought this was a terrible mistake. (Except Putin). 700,000 job vacancies have disappeared in just two weeks. I am afraid we are all going to pay the price for getting back this "sovereignty " that no one seems to able to identify. Would welcome people's explanation as to what they mean?

Posted by Peter Burgess at 9:54am

No Sharon, unfortunately it doesn’t look like it will. Even Nigel Farage himself admitted on the day after the referendum that the NHS would not be getting anything. This was confirmed by Iain Duncan Smith on the Sunday after the result. It is extremely likely that in fact the NHS will get less money as the country is about to go into recession. Either taxes will have to go up or spending will go down.

To add to that, if immigration numbers do fall following a Brexit, tax payments that would have come from immigrants will reduce. This money will have to be made up from somewhere, so it is very unlikely that the NHS will see a penny.

Posted by Peter Burgess at 1:02pm

Hi Peter, I was wondering if you and your team have noticed companies now being more hesitant to hire employees from outside of the UK, even though as per your earlier comment, it is unlikely that anything will change with regard to immigration? Thanks

Posted by M van Aarle at 2:58pm

Hi MelissaRees. I assume by stocks you mean trade. Some sort of trade will continue of course. However, whilst it is true that Britain buys more from the EU than it sells, it is also true that the UK represents only 8% of their trade whereas the EU represents 45% of our trade. They are in a very strong position and have every possible reason and motivation to see us harmed by leaving. The very last thing they want to see is us on the outside flourishing for it will lead to the break up of the EU itself. The French have been particularly blunt about this. They want us to pay a very high price for breaking away. I fear they will exact it too.

Posted by Peter Burgess at 5:16pm

Hi M van Aarle. No, but what we have noticed is a strong nervousness amongst EU employees already here. I do think it’s disgraceful that the government has not confirmed formally their status will be secure. It most certainly will be for the repercussions of enforced repatriation would be too dreadful to contemplate. Employers should continue to recruit EU nationals as before. In fact, to discriminate would be illegal.

Posted by Peter Burgess at 5:17pm

Hi Peter Do you feel that if there had been more controls over the living conditions of all migrants working here ie: overcrowding there would be less migrants able to work for the low pay that firms pay them to undercut local business' as discussed last night by the lady from Boston on the live brexit discussion on channel 5, who was put out of business by this precise practice by these 'companies' who deliberately employ and exploit migrant drivers. And the retail industry with their zero hour contracts which prevents them from renting with fewer people due to uncertain wage levels. Not a lot of point in paying the living hourly wage if you can only work a few hours a week!

Posted by Linda at 6:45am

Hi Linda,

I am not sure the state has or should have control over how or where people live. Although the slow pace of house building is a national disgrace. I do agree with you that zero hour contracts are not a good thing. The argument that immigrants do push down salaries is a valid one. That's the point of free movement of people in that labour moves to where it is needed most. That is better for Europe as a whole including us. But that is no comfort of course if you've had your earnings held down because of immigrants willing to work for lower salaries.

Posted by Peter Burgess at 12:21pm

why do European living in London are called 'Immigrants' while British living in Europe are described as 'Expats'

Posted by V Zuin at 2:53pm

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