Adland needs to wake up to the dangers of Brexit
A view from James Murphy

Adland needs to wake up to the dangers of Brexit

The summer silly season in British politics will close with the tragicomedy of Labour's leadership election.

Attention will then quickly shift to the next big awkward issue: the European Union referendum.

The debate on our future in Europe shows every sign of being as acrimonious as Labour’s contest. And it’s a debate with major implications for our economy and particularly our industry. Cards on the table: anyone in business, and particularly anyone in this business, should be supporting the "in" vote. The reasons are overwhelming.

First, our agencies are in the vanguard of a huge export success story. UK service industries run a major balance of payments surplus with Europe. Within the single market, UK agencies have unfettered access to the world’s richest trading bloc while simultaneously being pre-eminent practitioners in that market. We benefit greatly from being in the EU because we’re so good at what we do.

Our agencies thrive when the economy is thriving. Reliable estimates link some three million jobs to our EU membership; more than a quarter-of-a-million UK businesses thrive in Europe. And the stats go on… £1.5 billion in research funding, 100,000 EU-supported apprenticeships etc. Leaving would deal a blow to the macroeconomy that would be felt quickly in our sector before ricocheting out across society.

Our agencies are held up as the best in Europe. A retreat from the bloc would create more subtle and emotional damage to our industry. Many continental clients believe we are creative, cosmopolitan and open to the world. If we vote out and go off in an isolationist sulk, that sentiment could turn.

The "out" campaigners say that we will renegotiate existing EU trade deals. Well, that could take 15 years or more. That’s an entire generation of lost opportunities.

They say we will forge new trade links with the Commonwealth. Last year, our agency grew by more than 25 per cent – half of that from Europe. I’m not confident I can make up for that by meeting demand for our services in Samoa.

The "out" campaigners say we can have a future like Norway, prospering without interference from and the costs of Brussels. Again, let’s get our facts straight – in order to trade with Europe, Norway has had to adopt 75 per cent of legislation and pay 55 per cent of the per-capita costs. But without getting any say in EU policy.

And this is the fundamental weakness of the "out" campaign. No-one knows what "out" really looks like. It’s like an angry but enjoyable rant in the pub followed by a long hangover. But we do know what "in" is like – it’s a world-class agency sector thriving on the European and global stage.

James Murphy is the chief executive of Adam & Eve/DDB