Rebuck: 'Brexit too big a risk to take'

Rebuck: 'Brexit too big a risk to take'

Penguin Random House chair Gail Rebuck has said that she and other UK bosses for parent company Bertelsmann are "unanimous" in wanting to stay inside the European Union, because leaving "it is too big a risk to take".

In an interview for Bertelsmann on the company's website, Baroness Rebuck, a senior executive on the board, said consensus among Bertelsmann UK directors was reached after considering "a variety of strategic and commercial reasons", including the "isolationist" message that leaving the EU would send to the global marketplace, possibly making it "more challenging to attract global business service opportunities".

Baroness Rebuck reasoned: "The biggest problem is that we can’t say, because no one really knows what ‘out’ looks like," she said. "That is one of the reasons why I think it is too big a risk to take."

She added: "At the moment, we have full access to the EU’s single market of 500 million consumers with a say about how it functions...we can make sure the rules work for our companies and for the British economy, as well as for other businesses in the EU". Alternative models to single market access may exist, she said, but they are unlikely to be "as good as the deal we have". She further cited loss of EU funding for universities and the arts and the result of fewer talented people to work in the creative industries as cause for concern, as well as reports revealing publishers would be impacted by a fall in advertising revenues.

"The EU has helped the UK to become a creative powerhouse," she said. "This is partly because of the EU funding that creative industries receive and partly because our ability to trade freely with 27 other countries in Europe has boosted cultural exports for decades and enabled British artists to tour and collaborate across borders. There are around two million people working in the creative industries in the U.K. and all need those industries to keep growing and flourishing. Over 125,000 EU students study in UK universities and 15% of their academic staff are from EU countries. They make an important contribution to the U.K. economy and culture but they are also a key source of talent.

"Finally and importantly, EU laws help protect copyright for the authors, creators, writers and musicians who are so crucial to many of Bertelsmann’s businesses. Although there are differences in direction from time to time, I believe that the UK is better off with a seat at the table influencing policy."

She added: "From a broader business point of view, no one on either side of the debate denies that the British economy would take a hit if we were to leave. The only questions are how bad would it be, and how long would it last – that is not good for any of our businesses."

Baroness Rebuck also quoted an online poll conducted by The Bookseller in February reporting that 70% of those expressing an opinion were in favour of remaining in Europe, including Waterstones c.e.o. James Daunt, whose own reasons also ranged from stability and certainty to worry about the imposition of new trade barriers, lack of foreign direct investment and free movement of workers. 

Addressing her colleagues in the UK, Rebuck concluded: "Whatever your views on the EU, please make sure you vote. This is a decision that will have an impact for well over a decade and – whichever way you vote – it is important that this is a decision that you helped to make and not one that is made for you."

Labour life peer Lord Peter Mandelson has also argued that EU membership was "crucial" to publishing at the Publishers Assocation's a.g.m. (18th May), for helping to protect copyright. While in debate with prominent Eurosceptic MP Sir William Cash, Mandelson said government is most effective "when it is operating at the right levels", referencing the EU's "muscle to take on Google", and the benefits of the freedom it provides publishers to move goods, services, finance, people and their ideas around Europe. Sir Cash argued in contrast that "it's about democracy and who governs you. And that is a hugely important question, because it is literally about our future."

Reports voters are shifting towards Brexit circulated yesterday following two Guardian/ICM polls, with voters split 52:48 in favour of leaving the EU.