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And the best PR Award goes to..

And the best PR Award goes to..
David Cameron has announced that if he is elected as Prime Minister of a majority government in 2015 he we hold a referendum on our continuing membership of Europe. Personally I think this is a great piece of PR.  It’s headline grabbing, sounds decisive and bold, is divisive, will generate lots of debate and means other parties have to take a potentially unpopular opposing stand. At the same time of course, it costs nothing to make the announcement, is years away and potentially highly retractable.
Is this the best piece of PR? Certainly it could be from a Tory point of view as it could attract UKIP voters and some LibDems who don’t like Brussels bureaucracy.  Of course it’s not necessarily new as the SNP had their best ever results on the back of promising to lobby for a referendum. This issue will start hundreds of debates about the benefits and negatives of being a member of the EU and more importantly from for the outcome of any potential vote, what would life be like outside the EU?
Meetings, travel, hospitality and business tourism are a huge and often underestimated part of every economy, just look at how many business travellers are on planes, trains and in hotels and how many people are employed looking after them and it’s easy to see the staggering importance of the sector. Without getting into the macro rights, wrongs and impacts, I am keen to look at what would be the impact of an exit from the EU to our world. So, put your politics to one side and think about what we would lose from not being in the EU and what we might gain from being outside?
Can you add to my extensive list? No, it’s not a miss print, I couldn’t actually think of a real problem!
IF, and it’s a very big IF, the economy was largely unaffected, what would it mean to us at a micro level? We’re not in the single currency and we’re not part of Schengen, so we already have to show our passports and change our money. All the existing air and rail links would still exist and hotels, conference centres and venues would still welcome us with open arms. London would still be a desirable city for incoming business as you can’t exactly wipe out 1,000 years of history with a referendum. Whilst our industry and developed and matured within the EU, is that just a coincidence? Surely the growth of regional, national and international meetings has much more to do with vast improvements in transport links and global communications rather than which particular trade bloc you are a member of, if any?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing for or against either way and clearly if the weight of economic opinion says it would be bad for the economy then we should not be the proverbial turkeys voting for Christmas. Or indeed be the first and fattest turkey at the feeding tray!
This internal debate (i.e. in my head) then broke down into two questions: Is a non EU country more or less difficult to operate in than within the EU? What are the easiest and hardest places to operate? In thinking about this, membership or not of the EU was not even contemplated. The answers to that one I will save for another time! 


Nigel Cooper, executive director, P&MM Events & Communications