What would Brexit mean for small businesses? Islington Now investigates

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Rochana Palasat of 7 Day Spa

Islington residents are moderately Europhile, according to polling company YouGov, but local business owners may not be voting to stay in the EU come June.

The Chamber of Commerce plans to canvas its members “in the coming months” – but Islington Now found a huge range of opinions after speaking to small business owners.

Rochana Palasat (pictured above), the Thai owner of new business 7 Day Spa on Chapel Market, is keen for the UK to remain in the EU.  She said: “The EU offers good protection for businesses. Without it, things might be more difficult.”

“If you vote to limit the freedoms of other people, you are limiting your own" - Christopher Moss
“If you vote to limit the freedoms of other people, you are limiting your own” – Christopher Moss

The EU has had a direct role in the formation of some businesses, like year-old tech start-up Jita, a Bitcoin lender based at Impact Hub Islington.

The EU study abroad scheme, Erasmus, helped train its founding director, Frenchman Jerome Rousselot, who started the company a year ago.

“I would not have done my PhD without Erasmus,” he told Islington Now. “And the EU made moving to the UK very easy.

“If you want to create a startup, you do not want the uncertainty. It’s very messy. Other countries will not look forward to making new deals with the UK.”

One of Jita’s two part-time employees is Belgian. His visa status could be thrown into doubt if Britain votes Out.

However, Richard Gewirtz, owner of John Laurie Antiques on Upper Street, said: “I’m leaning towards Leave.  As a small business it would probably help me – from a selfish perspective, my exports would be cheaper.

“Lots of my colleagues agree with me.”

View Islington businesses torn over EU referendum in a full screen map

 

If we left, we would not have a say in how Europe is run" - Mark Burgess, record store owner
“If we left, we would not have a say in how Europe is run” – Mark Burgess, record store owner

But Christopher Moss, owner of bag shop ‘Moss’ on Camden Passage, said: “I don’t believe it will have a massive effect.

“If you vote to limit the freedoms of other people, you are limiting your own.

“But anyone who votes on the grounds of economics is overestimating their own intelligence.”

Matt Burgess, owner of vinyl shop Flashback Records, agreed that it would be best to remain in the EU, so that the UK is able to participate as a full member of the European community: “I think we should stay. If we left, we would not have a say in how Europe is run – like basic trade agreements.

“Norway are in a worse position than us – they don’t have a say.”

However, some employers believe Brexit is crucial to cut immigration and spending.

"If I saw Ken Livingstone, I would run him over"- Benyosef Shelemy
“If I saw Ken Livingstone, I would run him over”- Benyosef Shelemy, jeweller

Benyosef Shelemy, the owner of Islington Discount Jewellers on Chapel Market, said: “I’ve been here 57 years. I’ve never got one pound from the government.

The 77-year-old, who moved to London from Israel at the age of 17, said: “But you get someone from abroad, they give them a house worth £2.5m. The government gives them everything. They come here because they get everything.

“Ken Livingstone started it. If I saw Ken Livingstone, I would run him over. He brought over all the Muslims so they vote for him.

“Everybody loves England, so they will come.”

Business associations sounded a cautious note. Hyperlocal hub Angel.London said: “Businesses are waiting for some more reliable information – there’s just a lot of scary stuff going around at the moment.”

Pictures: Thomas Seal