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"We need less faff at our borders" Heappey tells industry EU debate

The MP and chair of the APPG for events addresses mia debate as vote leave doubled support among audience
24/05/2016

Pictured: MP James Heappey addresses delegates at the EU debate

The government’s events industry champion, MP James Heappey, has urged the sector to consider whether or not leaving the EU would make it easier and cheaper to work in or visit the UK.

As the industry’s mouthpiece in government, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for events told the Meetings Industry Association (mia) debate on the EU referendum that he would take a neutral stance in order to ‘facilitate debate’. 

He told assembled mia members and guests at London’s Honourable Artillery Company he was confident the UK would ‘be fine’ in the long run, no matter the result of the public vote on 23 June.

Heappey said: “If I was sitting here listening to this as an events industry I would be concerned about the conversation I was having two hours ago with (business secretary) Sajid Javid. I told him we need to find a way to make it easier to visit the UK, not make it harder, to get a visa more easily and have less - not more - faff at the borders, so visitors’ first impressions of the UK are that it’s a dynamic place to visit.”

A poll at the start of the debate indicated 54 per cent of the audience planned to vote to remain in the EU, with just 18 per cent in favour of a Brexit. However, by the end of the panel’s submissions, support for leaving had doubled to 36 per cent while those who wanted to stay fell below half (49 per cent).

Vote leave panellists including Luke Springthorpe, chairman of London Conservative Future, and Daventry MP Chris Heaton-Harris, pointed to a more responsive government, lower corporate tax rates and improved trading opportunities. David Franks, chairman of BFI Ltd, added: “I think the breakup (of the EU) is inevitable, there is very little to hold it together. Greece will leave and there will be others. The unknown of staying in is far more serious than that of leaving.”

And on the remain side, panellists including City Pub Company founder Clive Watson and Vrumi.com founder Roddy Campbell warned London could lose its place as the European tech capital, said the hotel industry would be hit hard were the nation to vote leave, and pointed to the UK’s current ability to attract a ‘vibrant, young workforce’.

Management and events consultant Richard John said: “People will stop meeting and stop going to events because they will be poor. That’s what leaving means. Six to 12 per cent of salary will be wiped out if we leave. 

“We are part of the creative industry, the last thing we want to do is put up any more barriers. What leaving means is a reduction of the opportunity to meet face to face – it comes down to us telling Europe, ‘we don’t like you very much’.”  


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