Ahead of the UK general election next week, Emma McNamara is in Manchester to find out how business in the north west of England feels about the prospect of a Brexit - Britain leaving the European Union should voters in a promised in / out referendum in 2017 decide to leave the union. That referendum would happen if the Conservatives return to power.
Traditional manufacturers, more modern businesses and a recruiter all said that while a Brexit would not be ideal, they said they would be able to get on with things. This may come as a bit of a surprise because in Ireland we worry about how difficult it might make things for us.
Ken Beck and Seema Seka of Linco Care run a family business, which employs 70 and makes sunblocks and other lotions - branded and own brand - under names like ReGenOil and Calypso. It exports to 60 countries and is based in Carrington - past Trafford and just across from Manchester United's training grounds. The business owners say that it is very important for the firm to look beyond the EU and look to the southern hemisphere, given their products, so as they are not relying on the northern hemisphere and the UK given the weather there. Linco Care operate in markets such as Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia while one of its biggest markets is the Scandinavian market - which is half and half in the European Union. They say that they can not rely on only Europe any more, adding that manufacturing in the UK has become very difficult and so the company has had to diversify and throw the net out to longer fields and new markets.
A new and fast-growing business, Optimum Procurement, is an outsourcing and procurement company with customers and office in the UK, US, and the United Arab Emirates. Its founder and chief executive Peter Rushton says that if the UK were to leave the EU, the move would cause challenges in its own right as the operating in a country such as Spain would become more complex. Added barriers would be a reduction in the freedom the company currently has in hiring people across different countries. While he is confident his company would continue to to be able to staff its business, any change would not be a preference for Optimum as it wants to expand.
Hays is a familiar name in the recruitment business. Nicky Taverner of Hays North West says they are seeing buoyancy in property, legal and financial positions. He says that leaving the euro zone is not such a worry for Hays as the company is seeing quite a lot of growth across its specialist areas over the last 18 months or so. The recovery is good and while the company always thought it would be a London-led recovery, it is being felt on a national basis, with the northwest faring very well. She says there will always be a need for skilled migration, so even if the UK decided to leave the European Union, there would still be an application procedure for skilled migrants to come to the UK and fill some of the skills shortages
The 'best baker in England' a few years ago David Smart's third generation family business is a craft bakery, employing up to 1,000 people. Britain leaving the European Union is not a big concern of his, though he would prefer to remain in the union. His company - Greenhalgys - buys flour and meat, for its pies, from several EU countries including Ireland. One of its customers is Ryanair.