Ukie publishes new survey on EU Referendum
With ten days to go, the national polls show a knife-edge contest between Remain and Brexit. Where before there was a developing consensus that Remain would prevail on the strength of economic arguments, a switch in tactics by Leave to focus on the touchstone issue of immigration has reset the agenda presenting an effective ‘cut through’ issue with the electorate – to the benefit of the Leave camp, which has increasingly been setting the media agenda.
A major source of political uncertainty is the intentions of Labour voters. Making up approximately 30-35% of the voting electorate, concerns about the impact of immigration on jobs and low wages are considered to be having an impact on the politics of traditional working class communities, depressing turnout for Remain or directly increasing the Leave vote. That a Labour opposition normally opposes a Conservative government is also creating a voter education challenge among Labour voters, who instinctively don’t vote for a Conservative government’s position. This is compounded by what is considered a half-hearted campaigning performance by the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn – historically a socialist Eurosceptic who, since becoming leader has modified his position to support the EU (in line with the vast majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party).
Watch for a significant push from pro-EU Labour grandees in the next two weeks to mobilise the Labour vote across the country. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband urged Labour voters not to back Brexit and resist the temptation to use the referendum as a protest vote against Cameron. Miliband expressed concern that the voice of Labour campaign had been overshadowed by Conservative infighting and the fact that the issues most relevant to his party were not the ‘sexy part’ of the campaign. A big push by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Shadow Chancellor is planned for this week.
The televised debates which also aired this week were charged affairs, publicly exposing divisions within the ruling Conservative Party with ‘blue-on-blue’ attacks on the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and other senior figures. The rancour shown poses some questions about the future stability of the government, whatever the result. As things stand, 141 Conservative MPs have declared themselves for Leave, 179 Conservative MPs have declared themselves Remain, while 10 are still to declare.
Sentiment survey results
Ukie today (Monday 13th June) publishes the results of a new poll of members. The survey was conducted confidentially between 23rd May and 10th June and had 59 responses (20% of membership).
Similar to our previous poll in April, this shows support for remaining in the EU and concerns about the impacts of Brexit:
- 92% of respondents were either very positive or fairly positive about the industry future should the UK Remain.
- However, only 19% were as positive should the UK Leave – with the majority (71%) not very/not at all positive.
On talent (one of the most import issues identified by members in the April survey):
- 78% agreed ‘free movement of workers within the EU is important to fill high skilled or experienced posts’
- 80% agreed that ‘securing and retaining high skilled and specialist talent is vital to securing new business and investment’
- Respondents were more likely (59%) to disagree than agree (12%) that leaving the EU will create new opportunities for high skilled and specialist migrations from across the world.
It also shows that most games companies (80%) have made little or no preparation for Brexit.
Ukie has worked to support members during this period. A roundtable hosted by Ukie and Osborne Clarke on 25 May explored the legal and regulatory issues arising from Brexit, and aspects which will have to be worked through in relation to foreign talent/visas; employment law, consumer law and the Digital Single Market.
Our board reasoned and agreed that Ukie itself would not to take a position on the Referendum, but it agreed that we should conduct two surveys of member sentiment (and publish findings). It also considered it would be useful to provide more information for our members and the wider industry, including publishing Staying Connected: Implications of the EU Referendum for the UK Games industry, a paper on issues surrounding the Brexit debate that are relevant to games businesses.
As we approach ‘end game’ on 23rd there is no certainty UK will remain in the EU, and whilst both results are possible, members should start considering the implications of Brexit for their firms. Should the UK vote to leave, Ukie will have to reappraise our public affairs objectives set out in the Blueprint for Growth in November 2015. Much would depend on the political landscape post-Brexit, whether there would be a new government and/or elections and what the priorities of that administration would be. It is likely there will be further constitutional questions in Scotland, with pressure making another independence referendum a near certainty.
In a Brexit scenario, the government would have to devote considerable resources over the next two years renegotiating treaties, re-making and codifying laws. This timescale could be even longer given that this has never happened before- and have an impact on FDI/investment decisions. Undoubtedly Brexit would stretch capacity and divert energies of the government from its legislative programme. In this environment the video games industry and the tech/creative sector would have to work to ensure that our priorities, compared to those of other sectors, remain ‘in the mix’.
The economy aside, top of our concerns will be the status of overseas talent in UK firms - where we would, for example, seek to ensure that future immigration rules are drawn up in a way not detrimental to the UK attracting the best games talent in Europe and the world. As with our lobbying now around re-notification, we would also seek to ensure that the Video Games Tax Relief continues – a measure which could even be repealed in the event of economic hardship or the refocusing of tax reliefs to other sectors. We would also have to assess the impact of the withdrawal of EU grants (e.g. to regions and universities) both directly and indirectly as additional calls on public finances.
For more information please contact Theo Blackwell, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, at Ukie.