The ‘hokey kokey’ of the Referendum debate

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With June 23rd closing in upon us, political ping pong seems to be the order of the day.  With so many mixed messages in the market, it is difficult to see the wood from the trees.

As we are all aware this is obviously a personal decision, but I believe one that should be based upon facts not political point scoring around the pros and cons of a Brexit decision.

We are given some estimates suggesting the total economic cost of EU membership is around 11% of our annual GDP at around £200 billion.  Some say this money would be better spent on new British industries.  It is also stated that the EU is one of the world’s largest markets, accounting for 25% of global GDP.

The interesting point is that it is said that the EU is our biggest trading partner, with 45% of the UK’s exports to the EU, and 50% of all imports are from the EU.  You could argue that our membership makes us a more attractive destination for foreign investment.  Figures from 2012 show we received around £937 billion of Foreign Direct Investment, while 50%  of UK FDI is EU-related.

It is thought by ‘Brexiters’, we can independently pursue international trade deals with China, India and the US, this may well be true, but there is nothing stopping us today, or is there?

It is said that the EU has many layers of bureaucracy and regulatory issues.

I see that Nigel Farage believes we could strike an agreement with the EU that is similar to Norway’s, having access to the EU but not being bound by it.

And not to mention the most charged debate around the immigration effect on the country.

When I questioned my professional colleagues, it is very clear to me that they all have differing opinions, some to stay in and some to exit, both parties putting up convincing arguments and as far as I can see neither is wrong and there is value in both.

One thing that is understood is that we are all aware of where the EU has taken us as a country since 1972, but what will exiting deliver and where would this untrodden ground take us?    In reality, nobody knows.

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I therefore question what the real issues are and whether we are being given all the correct facts, plus what are the motives? Will we ever understand what it will mean to us before we are asked to vote in 27 days time, or will we all be simply voting upon minimal information based on a favoured approach by our local MP’s – and on the basis of a set of reforms negotiated by Prime Minister David Cameron, be they weak or strong?

As an IT Managed Services Provider we could sit on the fence, however for a few of our customers, it could have major repercussions if we left the EU.

What do you think?  How might it affect your business?

EU neighbours stand together in fight against cyber threats

In response to the increasing threats from cyber attacks and a lack of any common approach in Europe to digital network breaches, a new ‘Network and Information Security’ directive has been agreed this week by MEPs and ministers. This creates for the first time an EU-wide set of rules on cyber security.

Representatives from 28 EU countries have created a common set of minimum standards for cyber security in Brussels. Primarily designed to target any organisation running critical national infrastructures (eg. airports and power stations), it also sets a minimum benchmark of standards for organisations such as banks, energy and water companies.

On top of this, any company running critical services (plus some technology firms) will be required to report cyber breaches and attacks.  The tech firms likely to be included are online marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon and search engines like Google.

The European Agency for Network and Information Security (Enisa) estimates that such breaches whether from human error, technical failure or malicious attack result in annual losses in the range of €260bn to €340bn (£188bn to £246bn).

The whole driver for creating consensus is based on the strength of shared intelligence and protocols between countries.  In this new digital and dangerous age, countries must swallow historic aversions to sharing security information across Europe, for the greater good of its citizens.  A boost to this is also the EU pledge to offer best practice to others and to assisting member states to secure their infrastructures where they do not have the technologies or cyber security specialists.

Knowing how witheringly slow EU politics can be, this political goodwill collaboration amongst EU partners is in no small part spurred on as a result of the Paris terrorist attacks on 13th November 2015.

There remain many hurdles as the agreement still needs approval from the European Parliament and national governments.  With a vote in Spring 2016, it would then take around two years to put the measures in place.

MEP Vicky Ford (Chairman of the European Parliament Internal Market and Consumer Affairs Committee), who chaired the final round of talks, said that it was “a hugely complex piece of legislation.  We have set up a network which will enable experts from each of the 28 countries in the EU to share and develop best practice in network security, whilst not compromising any individual member state’s own national security measures.”

One can only hope that EU security agencies are prompted by their leaders to be proactive in sharing digital network threat information altruistically in the intervening 24 months.  The old “I’m all right Jack” mentality is now firmly a thing of the past as neighbours must support each other in this darker digital world.