The UK is currently caught up in a battle of ideals. Like with the Scottish referendum of 2015, UK citizens will be asked on 23 June 2016 to vote quite simply on whether or not they want to remain in the EU. This EU referendum, nicknamed Brexit, has been the focus of the British news for the last few months, with a number of high profile politicians taking sides with the multiple campaign factions (one for Vote Stay and three for Vote Leave). Some politicians have been accused of scare-mongering; others have been accused of planning by wishful thinking. While there is very little that we can do to see what will happen if the UK votes to leave, we can make an educated guess as to how the personal finance is likely to be affected by Britain leaving the European Union. As the core of the UK’s economy, how the personal finance sector is affected by Brexit is something which is on everyone’s mind.
According to the Financial Times, the UK’s “financial services would be hit hardest” by Britain leaving the EU. Britain leaving the European Union would mean that the UK would no longer have access to the single market or the preferential trade agreements that go with it, and would be locked out of any votes affecting how they conduct trade in the future. While the UK would likely be able to negotiate new rates on many of the things that the UK exports (cars, machinery and pharmaceuticals for instance), these things admittedly take time. During the interim, these exporters are highly likely to face tougher rates.
One study by Open Europe has suggested that London’s financial services are the most at risk, including the city’s big banks and insurance companies. Leaving the EU would simply impose new limitations on the industry, to no real financial gain. The report also notes that anyone looking to export goods from the UK into the EU would face “initial disruption” while the British government renegotiates trade deals with those on the continent. During this interim, exporters could be faced with extra surcharges and tariffs, with the tariff on imports such as British cars more than doubling should the UK leave.
All of this will have a direct impact on the UK’s finance sector should the nation vote to leave. As it stands, many companies in the British financial sector are caught up in trade with the EU – if the rates and charges on exporting these goods are raised, the UK’s financial sector will take a hit. The Open Europe report concludes that the risk of this disruption to the UK’s financial services would be high, while the chances of similar EU Access once the initial disruption has passed is quite low.
This isn’t to say that there are no reasons for wanting to leave the EU. Different people in different sectors of the British economy have different reasons for the way they are likely to vote, such as securing more favourable and more competitive trade deals in future. Some British politicians have suggested that the UK might retain access to the single market, though this would obviously remain to be seen. The financial industry is unlikely to want to leave their European neighbours to their own devices – a recent pole in the Financial Times suggests that just 8 per cent of economists surveyed believe that leaving the EU would benefit the country.
However, because a direct hit to the UK’s financial industry will affect the majority of the population, this something which everyone who votes has to keep in mind. If the banks take a hit everything from the ease of obtaining credit, to mortgage prices and the availability of debt consolidation options such as Scottish Trust Deeds will be affected. During the run up to poling day, Brexit will be heavily covered by the British media, with talking heads all trying to sway the public in favour of their own views. However, with such a massive change riding on the outcome of the vote, it is incredibly important that everyone in the UK takes the time to weigh up the pros and cons of staying and leaving, and makes a decision which they feel will benefit the country they live in.