Why has MRM launched its EU intelligence Bulletin?
The original thinking behind the EU service was to give clients a clearer understanding of the EU legislative process. We’ve found that about the only thing that the ‘in’ and ‘out’ campaigns can agree on is that the EU is an increasingly important source of financial regulation. With the start of the referendum campaign, I think we’re beginning to see already what a huge issue the referendum will be for the City and financial services firms.
As a result, the intelligence report also has a secondary purpose, which is to enable firms to better understand the rapidly evolving debate and the risks a Brexit vote would entail. There is already a precedent in the Scottish referendum for major political and economic turbulence around the vote and we want to give firms the best possible chance to weather the coming storm.
When will the referendum take place?
No one yet knows for certain. Even if the outcome of the EU summit is conclusive, secondary legislation fixing the day of the referendum still needs to go through Parliament. This is already proving highly contentious and may affect the outcomes and campaigning of the elections due in May. So far, it looks as if the 23rd of June is the date most of the players are working towards.
What is the legal background to this referendum?
Parliament passed the European Union Referendum Act on the 17th December last year and it sets out the main criteria amending the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) accordingly. Many involved with this referendum will have little or no election experience. What we’re concerned about is organisations being caught out by the registration requirements and the spending limits.
Why does it matter?
One thing is for certain about referenda. They are deeply unpredictable. This is bad news for firms; being caught out as the debate spirals and becomes increasingly acrimonious could be bad for business. Experience has shown in previous referenda that whether they like it or not, firms may get pulled into the debate, for the most trivial of reasons. You need to have a robust risk assessment in place and be prepared for eventualities. There is a lot at stake for the City given the importance of EU regulation, the single market and passporting not to mention the future of EU employees in London. Expect the referendum to be far closer and much more acrimonious than any normal election.
What will MRM public and regulatory affairs team be doing during the referendum?
We’re going to be keeping a very close eye on developments with a view to advising clients of the best ways to mitigate referendum risks. For the election aficionados amongst us it will be a rollercoaster ride. Don’t expect UK politics to be the same when this is all over – whichever way it goes.
MRM Public & Regulatory Affairs