The odds of the UK leaving the European Union over the next five years appear to be shortening. Following on from David Cameron’s announcement of an in/out referendum on Europe if the Conservatives win the next election and UKIP’s strong performance in last week’s local government elections, Lord Lawson, one of Margaret Thatcher’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, yesterday called for the country to exit the EU as soon as possible.

The business community, on the whole, is a supporter of the UK’s EU membership. The CBI, IOD and Chambers of Commerce can see the benefits of access to critical export markets and, in recent years, the availability of more flexible workers from Eastern Europe. These benefits have, on the whole, outweighed their frustrations with the EU’s perceived red tape and bureaucracy.

But what if things change? What if the British public decided to leave the EU and go it alone? How would such a momentous decision affect your business, its growth prospects and its profitability?

You may not yet have all the answers to these questions, but I believe that it’s critical that you consider them and develop your responses. As you do so my hunch is that you will come up with one or more of the following actions:

  • Increase your export and international strategy on non-European countries, particularly the US, the BRIC countries and the rest of Asia;
  • Develop and embed operations within EU countries, possibly in the lower cost nations of Eastern Europe or Ireland, or, for more added value activities, in the stronger economies, particularly Germany;
  • Accelerate your level of innovation and improve your product/service quality so that your offer is less affected by any tariff-driven price increases in the EU; and/or
  • Take the next step in improving your operational efficiency and effectiveness so that any extra costs of doing business in the EU are minimised.

Of course, some or even all of these actions could accelerate growth for your business whether or not the UK actually leaves the EU. So, what have you got to lose? What are your company’s plans for life outside the EU?

© Stuart Cross 2013. All rights reserved.