Brexit: to be, or not to be …in the EU? That’s the question.

There was always something more interesting in Britain than polls: the odds. I believe they show a real pragmatic attitude of Britons, who invest their own money into bookies.

With less than a month to go until the referendum, the odds on the UK voting to stay in the EU are at their lowest. The odds on the UK staying in the European Union continued to fall. „Remain” is trading at 1.23 and „Leave” has gone up to 5.20, which means that bettors are more convinced than ever that British people will vote to remain in the EU.

Looking at several latest polls „Remain” is also doing quite well. Is there any chance for the Leave Camp to turn the tide before the referendum on June 23?

Of course, the safest option is to say „time will tell”. Even though I want the UK to remain in the UE and I believe  it will happen, however, these days will not be easy. The campaign is still going on and every day brings new sensations, new figures, new facts and another lies. We have to keep in mind that the difference between two camps is not impressive at all and many voters simply still do not know how they will vote.

My positive view is based on pragmatism of the British people. If the economy is the top concern for them deciding how to vote in the referendum, they cannot not to hear many serious voices like the last G7 declaration which states that „a UK exit from the EU would reverse the trend towards greater global trade and investment, and the jobs they create, and is a further serious risk to growth”.

In late April, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) also warned that Brexit would mean a "large negative impact" for the British economy. The country's economy would shrink by 3 percent to 2020 and by 5 percent to 2030 compared to the situation if Brexit is avoided. On the other hand, the British trade unions believe that the potential output of the UK from the European Union may mean the loss of up to four million jobs, mainly in export-oriented industries. This is not the end of the warnings. According to the International Monetary Fund chief exit of the UK from the European Union would significantly harm bourses and the British real estate market.

Clearly for the UK banking sector Brexit would have negative impact on their business too. All 147 British Bankers Association (BBA) voting members were surveyed, and just over 50 percent responded to the questionnaire. Those responding represent even 90 percent of the UK banking sector workforce. A majority of member banks based in Britain believe their business would suffer a negative impact if the UK left the EU. Will this voice be ignored by the public opinion?

These banks manage more than £7 trillion in the UK banking assets, employ nearly half a million people at home and contribute over £60 billion to the UK economy each year. Almost 60 percent of banks that responded to the survey claim that Brexit would have a negative impact on their organisation, with 26 percent saying the impact would be even significant.

This survey also revealed that 55 percent of respondents thought the UK remaining in the EU would be in the best interest of their organisation. Of those who had a position, 98 percent said the UK remaining in the EU was in the bank’s best interest. However, the majority (63 percent) of those who responded said that their bank does not hold a position on whether or not the UK should remain in the EU. The BBA itself adopted a neutral position in the referendum debate.

After a new settlement for the UK within the UE, I would be REALLY surprised by British rejection of the EU. The decision of the Heads of States and Governments of 19 February stipulates that the UK is entitled under the Treaties:

– not to adopt the euro;

– not to participate in the Schengen area;

– to choose whether or not to participate in measures in the area of freedom, security and justice;

– to cease to apply a large majority of Union acts and provisions in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.

It is thus recognised that the UK is not committed to further political integration into the EU.  What's more this decision has put much emphasis on the need to lower the administrative burden and compliance costs on economic operators. Through the Better Regulation initiative’s ongoing Regulatory Fitness & Performance Programme (REFIT), the Commission will also establish specific regulatory burden reduction targets at EU and national level – with a specific focus on targeting SMEs’ burdens. Is it something Poland would love to see in practice too?

Of course, the question of the EU membership  is a matter for the British people to decide. However, we should be more aware of a remarkable moment. The UK votes to leave or remain in the EU on the 23 June will be one of the most important decisions shaping British and European economy in the years to come. The character and importance of the EU may not be the same anymore. The referendum will bring unprecedented consequences for Polish people and Poland too.  

I would like the UK to  remain in the EU, but what will be?

Whatever the outcome of the referendum will be, one thing will never change: British whining.  This is a part of their identity.


Szymon Stellmaszyk

Polish Bank Association

Advisor to Board


Author presents his private views.

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