As I write, the polls have Remain ahead – 47% to 40% – despite having the least persuasive name of any campaign requiring people to leave their homes and vote. That leaves 13% undecided or still needing to ask what the word Brexit means.
What Brexit means is a better question than it might sound. An EU-less Britain is imbued with a sense of the unknown – not least the question of what taxi drivers will blame for all of the UK’s ills – but mainly because no state has left the EU before.
There are many issues washing about – security, immigration, isolationism v federalism, human rights – but when it comes to business it mostly boils down to trade agreements and the prospect of rewriting them.
The Leave campaign talks of UK disempowerment and the suffocating nature of an overly bureaucratic EU. The Remain campaign opines the advantages of unrestricted EU trading and the international might of the trading block. The big hitters of the drinks industry just want easy access to a continent of drinkers that drained 240m 9-litre cases of mostly premium spirits last year, not to mention wine and beer. Unsurprisingly Diageo, Pernod Ricard and the Scotch Whisky Association have all come out as backers of Remain – as has the IMF.
So how will the British public vote? Well, we won’t make any predictions but it’s worth noting that the British tend to submit to pragmatism over idealism at the polling booths. For all the island-nation chest beating, what many Britons fear most is stepping into the dark alone with no one to hold their hand. That and more paperwork – we’ve just finished with the last lot.
It’s best to leave this publication’s political leaning to one side, except to say let’s toast to the best outcome for the drinks industry. Cheers. Sante. Salud. Prost. Saluti.