The European security market is one of the biggest in the world, so how would the UK industry be impacted by a vote to leave the EU on 23rd June? Both sides of the ‘Brexit’ referendum claim that their way is the most beneficial for business, but what concerns do you have for the short/long term outcomes if the nation votes to go it alone or stay as we are?
The issues surrounding EU membership are multiple and complicated. As with all complex arguments, there are benefits and detriments to both sides. The key difference to the arguments for In/Out is transparency of knowledge. With the argument to stay in, the pros and cons are already known. Euro-philes and Euro-sceptics will have their views, but they will be debating from known standpoints, as we are already in the EU today. The latest concessions negotiated by the UK government are also known, so we have a clear view about what our membership would look like.
The challenge with the arguments about a decision to leave, is the uncertainty that the situation brings. As well as the things we appreciate we don’t know about a potential ‘Brexit’ (the known unknowns), there are also the inevitable repercussions we haven’t yet contemplated; the principle of the unknown unknowns.
At a holistic level, the less knowledge that exists, the more risk is introduced into any situation. Not that risk automatically equates to ‘bad for businesses’, as often it’s the high risk strategies that yield the greatest results. Perhaps then, one’s view as to ‘stay or go’ from a business standpoint should be steered by one’s appetite for risk, but I don’t know many CFOs that would generally favour risk versus prudence.
From an industry specific perspective, as a UK based vendor that manufactures in and sells to the EU, I don’t predict any major change – in or out. Products destined for the EU will still need to meet local compliance, regulations and standards. Trade will continue, driven by market needs and competition. Remain as a member and those trade frameworks already exist. Leave the EU and trade will continue regardless of whether national ‘UK/EU’ agreements are in place or not. Exporting to the EU would be just the same as the many other countries we export to today.
At a security industry level, there will be a lot of attention drawn towards the terror aspect when the UK’s EU membership is called into question. Many of those that want out will cite the nature of the open borders and how people could potentially enter the country from continental Europe with minimal difficulty. I can’t imagine that much would change if we were to leave the EU. Attacks on the continent will still make us nervous and the majority of those who are investing in electronic security aren’t doing so because they expect to be attacked; they’re doing it because they want to keep unauthorised people out of sensitive areas.
In terms of the effect on the industry itself, there are other factors to consider. We have somewhat of a paradox of movement as the focus intensifies on both making sure that everyone is monitored whilst ensuring that everything operates as smoothly as possible. A vote to leave in June cuts the UK off from all of the systems in place across Europe to monitor people and could well be a driving force behind alternative software and hardware as people look to identify others with increasing urgency. More advanced methods of identification, like biometric readers, are one way to circumnavigate the issues with both requiring quick access as well as ensuring that nobody is where they shouldn’t be. Previously the industry has been slow to embrace biometrics (largely due to a reticence from end users), but Brexit could well be the impetus that pushes us into adopting this technology as a new standard.
It’s worth considering things from an employment perspective as well, because the skills to develop both software and hardware are not easily sourced, and as a number of current developers for various security companies could potentially lose their rights to work in the country, a slowing down of progress could be seen in the event of Brexit taking place. There has been special attention drawn to the Le Touquet agreement and how movement across the channel could become a more complex process if the deal were to fall apart. This sort of talk is perhaps an early indicator that development talent in the country could become a lot more expensive to source.
At Grosvenor Technology, we are in the fortunate position of having in house development for both software and hardware for all of our offices, worldwide. The presence of these teams allows us to be quick to respond to any market changes and resistant to global events, like Brexit, should they come to pass. In the UK for instance this means that when we have a client specific integration opportunity, we don’t have to wait for a conference call with a US business strategy unit or Skype an overseas development team.
Our agile approach means regional sales, support and development functions can make decisions on-the-fly to deliver bespoke solutions in often time constrained situations. We collaborate across sales, marketing and development to ensure that we deliver the product that is responsive to market dynamics and the geo political landscape, and that in house responsiveness won’t change regardless of what happens at the polls.