We round up the discussion from last night’s Eventhuddle debate on whether the UK should stay in or leave the EU, also known as ‘Brexit’.

Chaired by GES’s Robert Dunsmore, on the panel was our MD Nicky Havelaar; Simon Hughes, managing partner MCHA ltd; Nick De Bois, former MD of Rapiergroup and Jeremy Jacobs, broadcaster and presenter.

Kicking off the debate, Simon commented that the events industry doesn’t have a clear view on Brexit, however being “out of the EU will introduce more barriers to doing business”. Taking the longer term economic view, Nick asked us to take a step back to look at the future of the industry: the EU market is declining, we should focus our efforts on emerging markets. Nicky made the point about the image that Great Britain has built as a tourist destination and business hub for trade “…as a business, you need to make swift, informed decisions. Does the debate actually damage ‘Great’ Britain?” What’s lacking is information and communications “…people will be voting emotionally, not knowing what they’re voting for” she says. Robert posed the question “are European events going to be affected?” Nicky responded “yes…we have a responsibility to negate any barriers that have cost implications” Simon added that “exiting would put silly impediments in organisers’ way… remember carnets?”

Referring to the international image of Britain, Nick comments that Britain is not as attractive to delegates as other countries and asked what landmarks or notable venues do we have that make Britain a go-to destination? Jeremy concurred that “Heathrow is a much bigger debate than whether we leave the EU.” Discussing the economic outlook, he said “politicians like the ease of movement” whilst Nick voiced his concerns that the single market of the EU only operates in goods, not in services “…why do we want to be entrenching ourselves in a declining market? We’re still trading at a deficit which is unsustainable. We should build opportunities right across the world. The EU is not competitive…why not free ourselves of this constraint?” Jeremy added that Britain is in need of event infrastructure like the US or Germany. Simon countered that “Europe is a very rich offer for our clients”.

Drawing the debate to a close, the panel were left with the question “what would the rest of the world think if we left the EU?” Reputation factors are at play too and Simon concluded “what would China say if we were to leave the EU? Probably something in Chinese.”