The book trade’s support for the UK remaining in the European Union (EU) has grown stronger since February, according to an online survey by The Bookseller.
In contrast to more general EU Referendum polls, the majority of people in the book trade who are likely to vote “Remain” on 23rd June now stands at 78%, up from 71% when the survey was last carried out in February.
The most recent poll ran online between 10th-14th June and found that just 18% of the trade were intending to vote “Leave”, while 4% were undecided with just days to go before the vote.
Will you be voting for the UK to leave the European Union in the 23rd June 2016 referendum?
As arguments both for and against staying in the EU have been aired over the past three months, those who believe a Brexit would be “negative” for their business has also increased, from 46% in February to 59% last week. Just over 12% of people thought a Brexit would have “catastrophic” consequences for their business, while 21% said it would have a neutral impact. Just 4.6% thought leaving the EU would be positive for their business, while even fewer, 3%, said it would be “extremely beneficial”.
Of the 239 people who responded to the survey, 16% said their businesses were making contingency plans following a possible Brexit, which include revising publishing schedules in the likelihood of a probable economic downturn as books are not “essential items”, moving headquarters to an EU country and many saying they would seriously consider relocating to “culturally more inclusive places”, such as Germany, Scandinavia, New York and France.
Only 2% of people said their opinions had changed over the course of the debate, with 98% saying their opinion had remained the same.
Concerns over the negative impact to the economy ranked highly among respondents’ reasons for wanting to Remain as part of the EU, along with the cultural impact.
One person said: “Leaving would be a retrograde, petty-minded step that will leave the UK at the mercy of the British government's policies (whatever they may be) and cost us hugely in terms of progress and enlightenment, not to mention the huge economic risks of a departure from the EU. Such an isolationist stand is in my opinion hubris, ignoring the philosophical and economic benefits of being part of a larger group of nations, including the superior human rights and employment laws engendered by membership of the EU.”
Another said: “Because I believe that we must remain in the EU to remain relevant and influential in the world sphere, and we cannot let fear drive us to isolationism.” A third respondent was worried there is “no exit plan”.
“I like open borders, free movement, don't believe in the nation state,” they said. “I want to be able to move freely round the EU, and have others come to Britain.”
What impact do you think an exit from the EU will have on your business?
Those in favour of Brexit, in contrast, ranged from believing the EU is “heading for disaster” to others who believed we should “have control of our own laws” and some who say the EU is "undemocratic".
“Real people's everyday lives are suffering under EU regulation,” one respondent said. Another maintained: “The EU has morphed from being a common market into a political project dedicated to ever closer integration”.
Several respondents to that question simply wrote “immigrants”.
Those who are still undecided, meanwhile, agonised that neither side had presented “convincing” arguments. One said: “At present heart says leave, head says stay.” While a third said: “I can't find hard evidence on either side that compels me to understand the benefits or consequences. I don't understand how it will affect me and the U.K. I need more hard facts; honest hard facts.”
Asked the reasons why a Leave majority vote would have a "negative" impact on business, one respondent said: “(I'm) working with lots of European publishers and there will be confusion and anxiety if we leave”. Another said: “The inevitable drop in sterling value will damage value of author contracts with foreign publishers.” While a third said: “EU funding is a massive contributor to the local economy in Wales. The Tories cannot possibly replace what will be lost by leaving.”
The reasons why some thought a Leave vote would improve business included: “VAT on e-books could go back down to 5%, where it used to be.” Another simply said: “The country will prosper” while others commented upon the importance of the American market over the EU market for their business.
Of those who responded to the survey, 36% were from a small publisher, 24% were from a large publisher, 25.6% were authors, illustrators or creatives, 7.6% were from an independent retailer, 4.5% were from a chain retailer, 4.5% were literary agents, 2.7% were from marketing or sales agencies, 2.3% were journalists or reviewers, 1.4% were from publishing solutions companies, and 0.9% were from an online retailer.
The Bookseller also spoke to senior book trade figures about the EU referendum. See what their thoughts are here.