The readers of UKClimbing and UKHillwalking have shown overwhelming support for remaining in the EU. The final question of our recent Readership Survey is 'What are you going to vote in the EU Referendum?' and a staggering 81.2% of those able to vote said they were going for 'remain'. To put it in some perspective, that percentage is slightly higher than the number who said that they go respectively indoor lead climbing, indoor bouldering, sport climbing or hillwalking! This is from a sample of over 4,000 completed surveys which is more than most of the polls we are reading about in the newspapers!
A second question we asked was how do you think climbing and hillwalking may be affected if Britain leaves the EU. This gave an even more conclusive response in some ways since only 1% thought that things would be better.
I have been asking around the Outdoor Trade what impact they think a Brexit vote might have. In the short term it is widely expected that the value of Sterling will plummet against the Euro (and consequently the Dollar which closely tracks the Euro). Much of our outdoor gear is imported and a fall in the value of Sterling will mean a hike in prices for imported gear. Many outdoor companies haven't fixed their price lists for next year because they are waiting for the outcome of Thursday's vote to see how much they will have to put their prices up!
In the longer term there are expected to be other problems thrown up by stepping outside a free trade area, and these are much harder to predict. Tarifs can have an impact but of more significance is the regulatory barriers inherent in negotiated trade agreements. In the EU free trade area none of this type of barrier exists since we have spent years synchronising our standards. New trade agreements are bound to throw up anomolies. It is too early to say what these will be but they will be there, and odd things will appear that are detrimental to the consumer.
Another important question for climbers and hillwalkers is what would be the impact on travel across Europe. Whilst the changes may be small, it is difficult to imagine any scenario where travelling to climb, and more significantly, work, in the outdoor industry in the EU would get easier following a Brexit.
Where do I stand?
I'll finish with a personal message. I was born 18 years after the world had been ravaged by conflict, and Britain and the rest of Europe was broke. By that time the countries of Europe had already started co-operating, leading to the Common Market and the EU as we see it today.
This co-operation has bought prosperity and peace like no previous generation has ever known. This has allowed me the free time to pursue my love of climbing, and travel across Europe in pursuit of this passion. I have built my business based on my passion and that of my friends and colleagues. The ease of travel and trade in combination with this peace and prosperity has enabled us to make UKClimbing and Rockfax brands that are successful and known around the world.
I also met my wife who was on an EU-sponsored language exchange program and she has made her career in an area of education for which the language and cultural exchange programs fostered in the EU are crucial.
Looking to the future I see the EU playing an even bigger role in combating climate change - the biggest threat to everyone, and something which can only be dealt with by large scale international co-operation. I also see the EU as having a key role in preventing the spread of fascism across Europe with many of the continent's most unpleasant far-right political groups sat waiting to pounce and praying for a Brexit.
So if you are undecided, or wondering whether to bother voting:
- Vote REMAIN because most of the most vile racists and xenophobes in Europe and around the world want Britain to leave.
- Vote REMAIN because you think that the EU is a flawed organisation but the best way to improve it is by being part of it.
- Vote REMAIN because you believe that consensus by co-operation is the better than going alone.
- Vote REMAIN because you think that free movement of labour is essential for a growing economy.
- Vote REMAIN because you don't fear other cultures and nationalities but you respect and value them.
- Vote REMAIN because you think Europe has a moral duty to help refugees from conflict zones.
- Vote REMAIN because you are worried about climate change and you want to do something about it.
- Vote REMAIN because you appreciate peace and don't take it for granted.
It is not about Project Fear or Project Fantasy, for me it is about Project Earth, and the best way to support that is to vote for Britain to REMAIN in the EU.