Tech leader throws weight behind 'digital union'
Article date: Wed, 25 May 2016 13:42 GMT
Digital entrepreneur Lawrence Jones MBE is throwing his support behind the ‘IN’ campaign ahead of June’s referendum on EU membership.
The UKFast CEO sees first-hand the benefits EU membership brings to Manchester, where his company is headquartered, and says the UK’s ability to be a leader in eCommerce and online business is better served within the EU.
He said: “The digital economy is opening up more opportunity for trade with our neighbours. Thousands of new online businesses are springing up every year, and new technologies and services make it easier than ever to reach markets in Europe. We should take advantage of the incredible relationships we have and be proud of the club that we are in.”
The eCommerce market is the fastest growing retail market in Europe and is expected to reach £182.80bn this year.
Jones continued: “With so many incredible entrepreneurs being given the opportunity to set up businesses online, why would we want to tie one hand behind their backs by burning bridges with our neighbours? New businesses currently have instant access to a marketplace of 508 million people. I think we’d be crazy to turn our backs on that opportunity.”
Jones, who was awarded an MBE last year for services to the digital economy, also takes issue with the argument from ‘OUT’ campaigners that regulation is stifling the UK’s economy.
“It’s important for the EU to hold our government accountable, whether Labour or Conservative. EU rulings have introduced equal pay legislation, holiday entitlement, the right not to work more than a 48-hour week; not to mention greater investment in clean air, clean beaches and clean energy. I don’t see how people can have a problem with that.”
There is disagreement over how long it will take to renegotiate trade deals with the remaining 27 member states and how favourable any deals would be to the UK.
“It’s ludicrous to suggest we would get better deals negotiating trade deals on our own. We’re part of a great club in Europe and we have power in numbers. It’s also a huge distraction.
“I’m holding off on a hugely exciting deal on the continent to expand our network. While this uncertainty hangs over Europe we have to think twice about our growth plans, and that would only continue if the country votes to leave the EU.
“Europe is a much bigger place than the UK, it already gives us 57% of trade. British businesses wanting to expand and make a huge difference to the economy know there are limited people to sell to in the UK.”
The entrepreneur has built his tech company UKFast from a back bedroom in Manchester to one of the UK’s leading technology brands and claims that input from the EU has helped his firm become what it is today.
“EU funding has done great things for Manchester and at a time when the government is cutting funding in the region it is important to remember the long list of transport projects, museums and science institutions that have been made possible by the European Regional Development Fund.
“Manchester’s museums, Metrolink, Jodrell Bank, Sport City and the National Cycling Centre – all helping our children grow and develop – have benefited from funding. The fund also helped to give startups a home in The Sharp Project and driven development at the National Graphene Institute and Manchester Science Park.
“The EU is a boost for science, innovation and culture in this amazing city. We’re competing with London and other great cities to become the number one tech city in the UK and having all these great projects in the city helps us to keep developing and retaining talent.”
UKFast achieved EBITDA of £16.2m in 2015 on a turnover of £34.3m and is set to utilise a £40m bank fund from RBS to drive the next phase of its explosive growth.
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