As the referendum on whether to stay within the EU looms, Deputy Leader of UKIP, Paul Nuttall MEP talks exclusively with CLH News:-
The hospitality and tourism industry is a vitally important part of the British economy, full of exceptionally hardworking people who put in long and unsociable hours, with very tight operating margins.
The industry is at the end of a very long and involved supply chain, and particularly susceptible to economic fluctuations of not just the UK, but the world.
It’s tempting to think that being part of an international block like the EU helps the industry, but in fact the opposite is true, it is one of the main factors that reduces our competitiveness, particularly for smaller, independent enterprises.
As far as tourism is concerned, Britain has always been seen as having a separate identity to the rest of the countries in the EU. Generally the UK offers a different visitor experience to that of continental Europe, it always has done, at that will not change if we leave the EU.
We have a different currency, we are not part of the continental landmass, not part of the passport-less Schengen agreement, we even drive on the ‘wrong side’ of the road, and we have a language that is learnt by huge numbers of tourists from outside of the EU. So withdrawal will have no significant impact on the tourism experience or the reason people come here.
Tourists from both in and outside of the EU routinely say that Britain’s unique history and culture is a prime reason they chose here as a destination.
There is absolutely no reason to think that any potential tourist will be put off coming here if we left the EU, because by and large, they would not be able to discern any difference in their experience from what they would have if we stayed in, except it would probably be cheaper.
As far as operating costs are concerned, as the most prominent member of the ‘Save the pub’ campaign, I strongly advocate that the government should lower VAT for the hospitality industry, as many other EU governments have done, but it is worth remembering that it is only with the permission of the EU that they have been able to do that.
The European Parliament have ‘given permission’ for member states to reduce VAT on hotel bills. The sectors where a member state may reduce VAT are reviewed every two years and can be reversed, and although it helps keep the final bill to the consumer lower, there are many other elements in the supply chain for the sector whether is furniture, energy or perishables etc which are subject to the whim of the European Parliament’s VAT decisions, and effect customer bills.
The EU want to force the UK to impose VAT on foodstuff, as some other member states do. Any such implementation will immediately disadvantage British businesses as this will be a new tax for us, whereas it already exists in other countries.
Operating on low margins means the industry has always been as energy efficient as possible, so slapping green taxes and VAT on fuel has hurt the sector because there has been little scope to decrease energy use to mitigate the additional costs. These charges could be reversed if we become an independent nation. A move that would also help British carriers reduce the cost for visitors to get here.
The ‘Remain’ side seem to have done their usual trick of trying to scare people by saying visitor numbers would drop, but most surveys only report that potential visitors may be put off by increased costs.
With the freedom to reduce the operating costs for those in the tourism and hospitality industry, and protections against the introduction of additional costs (like VAT on food) my assertion is that costs for a holiday maker coming to the UK would actually go down.
We will still have all the reasons why people come here at the moment, our trade deals with international suppliers will stay in place, and with the cost of getting here being cheaper, and the cost of staying here being cheaper, tourist numbers would increase, and the cost of staycations would go down too.
Hardly a prospect to be worried about.