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I recently went along to a debate about the EU Referendum led by Andy Burnham, Labour contender for the Mayor of Manchester.

Don’t worry, you’re not about to read another ‘should we stay or should we go?’ opinion-piece on the EU.

But the event did leave me pondering the importance of the vote and how it gives us the choice not only to choose our leaders, but also how they lead on our behalf.

Learning from past mistakes

The venue for the debate was near the site of a protest over parliamentary reform in 1819, which tragically became known as the Peterloo Massacre after a group of local volunteer soldiers tried to break up the peaceful demonstration, leading to several deaths and hundreds of injuries.

This was a poignant reminder that this referendum is a symptom of the groundswell we’re seeing in this country for more local leadership. There’s a feeling that centralised power in Westminster and in Brussels means decision-makers have become too disconnected from people.

For business owners that means that access to funding, networking opportunities and advice are determined by bodies which do not have insight into local business needs.

We have big business, big politics and big brother all saying that an independent UK will be a poorer, more chaotic nation.

And in fact we’re seeing some corporations reflecting this change by unpicking groups to make brands more accessible – look at how Yorkshire Bank is relaunching as a challenger bank, having once been part of the behemoth National Australia Group.

Time to decide to be certain

And that brings us back to this debate at the Manchester Radisson Blu – which used to be the Free Trade Hall near St Peter’s Fields, where the Peterloo Massacre occurred.

And the message to come out of the debate? It was that there is, and will continue to be, uncertainty, no matter what the outcome: whether we are continuing to negotiate our way through future challenges as part of the Europe super-economy or as an independent sovereignty.

Rather than voting to avoid uncertainty, which is unfortunately a certainty, we should vote for the future we would like and be prepared to commit to our decision.

It’s time to consider how we want our political structures in the future. That is the real question at the heart of this referendum.

Yes, if there is a Brexit there will be a period of uncertainty and market volatility, we will need to renegotiate trade agreements, update our laws and regulations, and decide how to manage the movement of people and many more challenges.

But we may see that people are willing to vote for change even if that means they have to endure a few years of turbulence. But we’ve become used to austerity – Chancellor George Osborne has prepared us well.

These are interesting times and I for one will be watching the votes pour in with bated breath.

How is your business dealing with uncertainty ahead of the EU Referendum?

Find and contact your local Haines Watts office

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