EU Referendum

EU referendum: North West entrepreneurs split on Europe

Lawrence Jones and David Furness
Image caption Leave or Remain? Lawrence Jones and David Furness discuss the pros and cons of the European Union

While Lawrence Jones and David Furness have much in common - they have each grown successful companies in the North West - their views on the UK's place in the European Union could not be further apart.

With less than a month to go to the referendum, the two entrepreneurs discuss whether being in the EU is good for business.

Lawrence Jones, UKFast - backing Remain campaign

Manchester-based cloud computing provider UKFast started life 17 years ago and now employs 280 staff, many from across the EU.

The company provides 24-hour website hosting for organisations including the NHS and Chester Zoo. While it does little business directly in the European Union, many of its clients rely heavily on trade within the trading bloc.

Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Jones believes EU membership is good for business in Britain:

"We want stability - at least we know where we are at [by staying in the EU].

"The government has negotiated a better position for us within the European Union and the economy is beginning to boom.

"Among our employees quite a few are nationals of other EU states. I'm a big fan of the EU and the opportunities it provides for trade and free movement of workers across the continent."

When it was suggested by Mr Furness that the UK should seek to trade more with China and India, Mr Jones said he was sceptical.

"Look at China and look at steel - they're imposing levies so we can't compete," he said. "Whereas the EU has got dozens of member states all trading seamlessly.

"For small businesses the natural progression is to expand across Europe. Why would we want our hands tied behind our backs?

"When we're exporting back into Europe they'll just impose those levies back on to us… we'll have our hands tied."

"I can't remember life without Europe."

David Furness, Rapierstar - backing Leave campaign

Rapierstar, the UK's largest supplier of screws and fittings, was established more than 23 years ago in Macclesfield.

Its products are designed in the UK, manufactured in the Far East and then sold chiefly in the European Union.

Managing director David Furness believes European red tape and "stealth taxes" are preventing UK companies from competing in the world market:

"Rapierstar now has a multi-million pound turnover and has expanded into commercial property, but our core business is screws and fittings and we have more than a billion at our storage centre.

"I am prepared to have a little bit of volatility which is a risk with leaving the European Union. I am not anti-Europe but we should be looking globally. We should do more trade with China and with India.

"I would question whether the EU operates seamlessly and there is constant internal wrangling.

"I am more than sceptical about what the "European project" is and I am convinced the UK will be more prosperous if it's released from its shackles.

"The EU has put unnecessary barriers and regulation in place without raising standards.

"We should be trading more with successful, global economies whereas the EU is failing economically."

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