Brexit will lead to “gross uncertainty, legal challenge and mess”, former business secretary Vince Cable has told the IPG Conference today (3rd March) in a discussion about the creative industries and business.
Giving his keynote speech for the second day of the Independent Publishers Guild’s annual spring conference, Cable said that a UK exit from Europe following the referendum in June would have a big impact on exports and freedom of movement in businesses. He said: “I don’t think we’re heading to armageddon, but it's very easy to see that we will soon see ourselves in an area of gross uncertainty, legal challenge and mess”.
“We’ve all been used to a world of ever expanding horizons, trade barriers falling, communications improving, technology helping more people and connecting internationally… [but we can’t] assume that that will continue to exist, because for the first time in my life, we’re beginning to see very powerful pressures for disintegration, rather than integration,” he said.
Cable praised the “very high level of innovation” of the publishing sector and said in terms of digitisation it has “developed ahead of many other sectors”. He said that in order for the creative sector to “flourish” it must address training opportunities including apprenticeships, the role of which he said is a big “controversy”. He argued for longer, good quality apprenticeships and said the industry should be involved in the specification of them.
Cable also discussed the need to “strengthen” and update intellectual property rights, which are at “the heart of creativity”. He said: “There needs to be the recognition that creative industries rest on intellectual property: it’s crucial and needs to be protected.”
“By and large, the IP system and the legal framework is now about right, but the problem is enforcement and cracking down on people essentially stealing IP. Companies like Google are too permissive about allowing theft through their system”.
Cable also said banks in the UK have not been “particularly interested” in the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector, and that when he came into office in 2010 it was very difficult for anyone other than big companies to get access to finance. He added that access to finance should be easier for expansion and working capital and that SMEs needed access to risk capital in order to get started.
On the topic of the tax avoidance of big corporations, Cable argued for the need for a "common approach" to taxation for all countries: “Amazon has gotten away with extraordinarily light tax bills," he said. "The problem is that these companies are behaving in an entirely legal way. It’s not difficult to see how companies can manipulate things to pay very little tax here."
Cable served as a Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham for nearly 20 years, and for five years was the business secretary in the coalition government. Cable’s book on economy was published by Atlantic last year.