Real danger of Brexit, business leader tells Irish
Published 20/02/2016 | 02:30
The debate around whether or not Britain should pull out of the EU is so close to call that an unexpected event could tip the balance in favour of withdrawal, the President of the UK's biggest business body has warned.
Paul Drechsler of the Confederation of British Industry said complacency was his big concern and he said there could be a so-called "braccident", where the country votes to leave without really intending to.
He said the UK population was a "long, long way away" from understanding the EU issue in the broader sense.
"I think it is very close to call and I think it is for sure at risk of an unintended outcome because of an unplanned or unexpected event," Mr Drechsler told the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce conference in Dublin yesterday.
He said the message to the business community in the UK and in Ireland was to talk to your employees, customers and suppliers and make sure they understand what being part of the EU means for their business.
It was a view echoed by the Scottish Minister for Europe and International Development, Humza Yousaf, who said Irish businesses have an important role to play in the debate.
"Not only to speak out themselves, but you have contacts in Scottish businesses," he said.
"You have a great number of links to Scottish businesses, Scottish suppliers, you have your business set up in Scotland. Making those connections and encouraging people to speak about the benefits of the European Union I think would be very welcome indeed. And then there's the not insignificant number of Irish citizens across the UK."
Howard Beggs, chief executive of the Clanwilliam Group, said Brexit hasn't been on the radar for the company yet, and that it was "business as usual".
"It hasn't necessarily hit the radar and the full implications are not that known and the risks around this is that the debate has been a little bit hijacked by the issues like immigration. That's the worry for the business people," Mr Beggs said.
Ellvena Graham, chair of the ESB, said the issue has been debated in the company's boardroom and that it is "well on our radar".
But Ms Graham said as the single electricity market is underpinned by the two governments rather than EU legislation, she doesn't see this changing.
"In the short to medium term I don't have massive concerns around a Brexit," she said.