17 Jun 2016
The EU Referendum is fast approaching; Competitor Monitor looks closely at how the result could affect the British consumer.
The upcoming referendum over whether the United Kingdom leaves the EU or remains has generated a huge amount of passionate argument from both sides.
The official campaigns for each group have been hard at work getting their opinions across through TV, leafleting and in print media, and with voters struggling to stay informed, it's hard to avoid information overload.
Almost every aspect of the vote has its own series of claims and counter-claims, with each campaign also accused of exaggeration and scare stories to get the vote out for their position.
While this has been the case for many implications of the EU referendum, such as defence, immigration and sovereignty, nowhere has it been more prevalent than when it comes to consumer issues.
Both sides have claimed that goods will be cheaper, services more efficient and affordable if the vote goes the way they want. But as a consumer, who can you really trust? And what are the simple facts?
The first thing to remember is that whatever the final decision is, it will be, by its nature, uncertain. There are few precedents for such a move, and it is impossible to know whether some of the proclamations from banks, businesses and foreign leaders about the potential change in their relationship with the UK in the eventuality of a vote to leave are genuine or not.
While consumer confidence and the view of the general outlook of finances has deteriorated with the referendum campaign, it is impossible to know how much of this is down to the possibility of an exit or merely the uncertainty it would breed.
Markets never react well to uncertainty, and the economy of the UK has declined as a result. Yet it's worth remembering, that a vote to leave would not be an immediately certain outcome - the process will be lengthy and require potentially years of negotiations to finally conclude.
In the short-term, it seems unlikely that a vote to leave would be good for consumers. The long-term, however, could offer a different perspective. The UK would certainly be subject to fewer regulations and red tape outside of the UK. But many of those involved in the campaign to leave, such as UKIP, are not those ruling the country.
The extra freedoms will be used differently depending on the administration and circumstances of the time, which are equally uncertain.
The economic situation could certainly improve after the uncertainty by businesses taking advantage of the newer freedoms, but it's impossible to predict exactly what form this might take.
Currently, the UK benefits from a lack of tariffs with the EU as their imports far outstrip their exports - but this is highly likely to change one way or another in the event of a decision to leave the EU.
For these reasons, it's little surprise that most major UK retailers have come down firmly on the side to remain.
While there's no doubt that a decision to leave could, in the right circumstances and with the right governance and management, be a huge boost to the UK economy, there's no way of knowing if or how that could take place.
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