Earlier this week Sir Meryvn King highlighted the first shoots of recovery in the British economy; house prices recorded their most buoyant year since 2009; EE hit half a million subscribers on its 4G network and London hosted it first Open Co. event celebrating innovation and technology within the capital .
It also saw the PM continue the EU referendum debate in the House of Commons with taunts aimed at Labour frontbench claiming that “the people’s party does not trust the people” – all in all an eventful week.
Although the economy may be showing signs of recovery the issue of EU membership still looms large, with plans for an in-out referendum on the UK’s EU membership after the next general election. The proposal has split opinion throughout the country as well as the UK’s business community. Would companies benefit from letting go of EU regulations? Or would withdrawing from Europe put exporting and investment opportunities at risk?
Either way, the uncertainty around Cameron’s proposal might encourage SME and aspiring tech start-ups to set their sights elsewhere to emerging markets outside of Europe, such as the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). According to the latest ONS figures UK trade in these regions has, doubled since before the economic crisis; however BRIC countries still only account for 5% of British exports.
With China and India alone contributing more than 20% towards the overall global GDP in 2012, now seems like a better time than ever before to trade and branch out into these markets. As Brazil prepares for the Football World Cup and 2016 Olympics it too is investing hugely in technology infrastructure projects and the likes of UK tech start-ups such as Get Taxi, Geckoboard and GoCardless could be presented with an opportunity to corner the international market as much as the domestic.
An upstart Kent tea-blender, an educational software company based in Doncaster, the Northern Ireland firm responsible for the new Routemaster bus and a small Ayrshire distillery are just a few of the UK’s export champions; reaching markets well beyond the EU boarders and as far afield as China, Mexico, the Gulf States, Brazil and Russia.
I am certainly not a Eurosceptic; it does seem however that for too long the States of the European Union have placed too much emphasis on the collective economic strength of the Union. The last five years of economic hardship, and more recently the situation in Greece has starkly highlighted the flaws in this collective approach to trade and economics.
The UK should not give up on the idea of Europe: that said, for the health of the UK tech, innovation and exporting sectors , as well as the wider economy we must broaden our horizons to the more lucrative and dynamic markets represented by the BRIC countries.