Opinion: Weighing up the risks of Brexit

Opinion: Weighing up the risks of Brexit

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Abta was criticised in some quarters for its report on the implications of a British exit from the EU. Stephen D’Alfonso, Abta head of public affairs, explains the association’s thinking

What might Brexit mean for business? For months, travel businesses have been asking Abta precisely this question.

So last week, Abta and professional services firm Deloitte published a report entitled ‘What Brexit might mean for UK travel’.

In it, we undertook to provide an answer in a balanced and fact-based way – or as close to an answer as possible in the absence of certainty.

The report does not offer a view on the merits or otherwise of supporting the ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ campaigns in the referendum on June 23. However, it does highlight a number of implications and risks that could arise in the event of a ‘leave’ vote

Considering the weight of the fact-based evidence within the report, Abta has come to the view that the potential risks and downsides of a ‘leave’ vote are not matched by an equal upside for the traveller or travel businesses.

This view was reached purely from a travel perspective, and we recognise that people will approach the referendum question by considering many factors before casting their vote – personal, professional and economic. 

The subject is emotive and in publishing the report Abta has, like others who have entered the debate, attracted accusations of “scaremongering” from some ‘leave’ supporters.

The truth is that many of the questions and uncertainties raised by this referendum are pretty scary, but this does not mean the report is scaremongering.

Claiming it is does a disservice to the more than 100 Abta members who contributed to the development of the report, and who posed the legitimate questions the report raises.

Questions raised include: what will happen if the UK can no longer participate in Open Skies?

What happens if consumer confidence is rocked by Brexit and the pound plummets?

What happens if the UK government has to renegotiate a large portion of regulation that has been designed to support free movement of people, goods, and services across Europe? How long will this take, and will the new terms be beneficial for UK travellers and travel businesses?

Unfortunately, the ‘leave’ campaigns aren’t able to answer these specific questions for many reasons, not least because a credible and uniform articulation of the nature of the UK’s future relationship with the EU – outside of the EU – has yet to be made.

It won’t be made before June 23, it won’t be made on June 24 and it may not be made until at least 2018.

This isn’t a saleable message, so we don’t hear it from the leaders of the ‘leave’ campaigns. But this is the reality of the situation. Might, may, could, would . . . we frankly do not know.

When it comes to the vote in June, it will be up to individuals to weigh up these risks as part of their overall assessment of the pros and cons of remaining in the EU or of leaving, and make a choice.  

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