An online retailer’s view of the ‘Brexit’ debate

May 27, 2016 05:44 PM

As a British man who has run an international e-commerce company based in Berlin since 2009, I remain very perplexed by the wisdom of the UK voting in favor of the impending Brexit vote in June. During my tenure at Spreadshirt, we became active in 19 markets, available in12 languages, we now operate 6 global production sites and last year shipped to 180 different countries. We are successful because we embrace a global market of sellers and buyers.

It is alarming to me that the isolationist view is gaining real traction with British merchants facing a 50/50 chance at becoming an island unto themselves in about six weeks.

I understand the sentiment of many British citizens and businesses; there are too many rules and regulations and that any reforms are a basis for suspicion. However not every rule, regulation or reform is a bad thing.

The intent of the Digital Single Market legislation is to make it easier for any European business to work well in any other EU states. This makes cross-border commerce easier, more efficient, simplifies VAT [value-added tax], and levels the playing field for all EU etailers. The current system is working well and UK retailers have access to mainland Europe’s 342 million Internet users with a minor amount of translation and a mere click away. British businesses should be backing the EU reforms to have greater access to markets, services for digital products and more business opportunities for UK companies.

If Britons exit the EU, they lose the chance to trade with their largest trading entity; currently 51% of British goods are exported to EU partners. The UK has solid retail brands and a reputation in Europe for entrepreneurship. Should they leave the union, they will no longer have the ability to compete on a global scale and risk becoming a difficult trading partner as a small state with different regulations than the rest of Europe. It would take years for the UK to negotiate a new trade agreement. Should they exit the EU, the consequences will be immediate and dire. British retailers will be left out of the e-commerce stakes as other players in the EU will grow and thrive in a less complicated, exciting, and frictionless market.

Everyday, global companies in scale up mode, see the benefits of doing business within Europe’s single market of 500 million consumers, with one set of regulations for 28 countries, and access to the talent pool for Europe’s best and brightest.

While the EU and regulations are not perfect, it is prudent to focus on better shaping the rules rather than cutting ourselves off from the entire EU market. The UK is one of the best places in Europe to launch and grow a business.  An abrupt departure is a risk that will stifle entrepreneurism, innovation, and economic growth. It is time for clear heads to prevail and solidly vote to stay a vibrant part of the EU to remain a world class-trading partner. 

Web-only retailer Spreadshirt Inc. is No. 442 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 and No. 238 in the Europe 500, according to 




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