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London - At an event hosted by Mayer Brown this evening, eminent speakers from the Government, HSBC, Citi, Virgin Media and the Bar will debate the pros and cons of the UK remaining in the EU and, if David Cameron pushes for a referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017, what key questions need to be addressed before votes are cast.

Mayer Brown argues that the debate isn’t all about the Eurozone nor common currency considerations but that the UK’s decision on EU membership will fundamentally affect every aspect of conducting business in or with the UK, from employment laws to requirements for energy efficient buildings and from tax planning to financial supervision.

Alexandria Carr, Of Counsel in the Financial Services Regulatory and Enforcement group at Mayer Brown, says: “It is vital to consider the likely future direction of travel in the EU. The ongoing global financial crisis alongside the downturn in EU competitiveness and voter dissatisfaction with the EU could bring things to a head in the EU as a whole, not just the UK. Current developments to tackle the sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone seem to recognise that the one size fits all model is no longer viable but this creates its own problems, notably the potential creation of a multi-speed Europe with the UK on the slower track. We must consider what this would mean for the EU and the UK and how to deal with such future developments."

Mayer Brown argues that now is the time for businesses to have their say as the UK Government is currently in the midst of a 2-year review of the relationship with the EU, and so provides an opportunity to highlight practical examples of how specific areas could be affected.

Sandy Bhogal, Head of Tax in London, said: “One example is seen through the Financial Transactions Tax (FTT), which the EU has proposed would apply to certain financial transactions. Although the UK is not one of the Member States that has signed up to it, the FTT could still be imposed on British businesses, seriously inhibit financial transactions in the UK and threaten London’s position as a leading financial centre if businesses decide to shun the EU together. So you could argue that it might be better for the UK to stay in the EU to at least have a voice in shaping tax policies.”

Nicholas Robertson, Head of Employment in London, said: “Being in the EU currently offers business minimum standards for employment law, and creates more of a level playing field between businesses in the EU with the aim of fairer competition. Common minimum levels of employment rights also helps shift the focus of competition away from labour costs towards quality and service and looks to enable companies to manage their offices across Europe effectively. There is, however, an increasing amount of employment regulations coming from the EU placing a significant compliance burden on businesses and increasing labour costs. So businesses might question whether an exit would free businesses from red tape around areas such as the collective redundancy rules, and rules restricting changes to employment arrangements on the transfer of a business.”

Mark Prinsley, Head of Intellectual Property in London, said: “There are pros and cons to staying in the EU. Exit might mean the end the exhaustion of rights rules and enable UK national IP rights owners to exclude goods marketed elsewhere in the EU from the UK market and protect their UK market margins. Exit would inevitably mean loss of the influence we have as part of a large trading block in the international debates about the shape of intellectual property protection globally in areas such as patent protection for software and the impact on IP rights of E commerce.”

The UK’s relationship with the EU is currently higher on the political agenda than it ever has been in recent years, Mayer Brown is going to be running a series of events to spark informed debate considering these and other vital questions concerning our future in Europe. Information and opinions gathered at these events could be used to feed into the Government’s review and help shape the UK’s future in Europe. To get involved and contribute to the debate, contact us via