It’s time to cast a light in the dark corners of subcontracting

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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Subcontracting within the manned guarding sector is a fact of life and all medium to large companies have to do it occasionally. Indeed, subcontracting is a legitimate means of ensuring an excellent and consistent service, as it provides an invaluable backstop when planning relief staffing at remote sites, for example. As long as customer agreement is gained and a fellow Security Industry Authority Approved Contractor Scheme (SIA ACS) accredited organisation is appointed (two factors that Corps Security always insists upon), then subcontracting should not be a problem.

However, irrespective of what process-checks are in place, it is always a concern of mine that an appointed subcontractor might actually subcontract that work on again. There’s no doubt that this practice does go on, but the scale of this type of practice remains something of a mystery. When it happens, it can lead to a situation where the vulnerable are exploited and, as such, it does massive damage to the reputation of the security industry as a whole.

I realise this might sound melodramatic. Yet while it is possible to remain objective on the subject, it’s not until the issue becomes personal that we fully appreciate the consequences of what’s going on right under our noses. This happened to me recently, when one of our Key Account Managers contacted me with a story that confirmed my worst fears. I’ll share it with you.

We’ve recently been awarded a new contract, where the outgoing manned guarding services supplier (an SIA ACS registered organisation) had decided to use an ‘agency’ to supply relief officers and, it transpires, had been doing so for some time prior to losing the contract. As two vacancies existed in the site’s staffing roster, my colleague was contacted by the site supervisor because he felt that one of the officers previously deployed by the ‘agency’ – let’s call him ‘Mr H’, 22 years old – might be a suitable candidate.

My colleague therefore interviewed the young man in question. What then unfolded was a tale the like of which I hadn’t heard before. Apparently, the ‘agency’ was, in fact, an individual who would call ‘Mr H’ when some shifts were available, tell him which site to go to and paid him cash in hand for his efforts. He went on to say that while some weeks he would have plenty of shifts, sometimes he would not get a call for two or three weeks. I should point out that ‘Mr H’ had a valid SIA licence (which he’d paid for himself) and a legal right to work in the UK.

As if this wasn’t shocking enough, the interview then turned to the subject of pay. When he was told the rate of pay, ‘Mr H’ appeared delighted at the prospect. This piqued my colleague’s interest and he asked ‘Mr H’ what he was currently receiving. The reply was £6.00 per hour. I don’t need to tell you that a 22 year old, under the National Minimum Wage, should receive a minimum of £6.95. What compounded the issue is that he knew that the ‘agency’ charged the incumbent supplier £8.00 per hour!

At this point it is worth pondering the fact that this ACS registered company was willing to pay this ‘subcontractor’ only £8.00 per hour, knowing full well that this could not possibly cover the full extent of the wage related costs. Turning a blind eye to such a situation is morally reprehensible and casts a long shadow over the security industry as a whole. This is clearly an exploitative practice and it appears that an ACS registered company is effectively complicit in what has gone on. The real worry is that ‘Mr H’ stated that he has a number of friends that are doing the same thing as him.

The security industry likes to take the plaudits for its efforts in becoming a more professional sector through licensing, training and accreditation. And so it should, as great strides have been made to improve the reputation of the industry and the skills and knowledge of those working in it. However, to assume that we are beyond reproach just because we are well regulated and well managed is misguided – there is clearly something going on that we should not be turning our attention away from.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that what has been highlighted here is a widespread issue. Yet many of us may have suspicions that, from time to time, something is not quite right. We may suspect that abuse of subcontracting arrangements takes place, but when we meet the people on whom it impacts, there can be no doubt of the damage that is done.

Are we potentially closing our eyes to an issue that could really impact on our industry? For our part, while we only ever use ACS approved subcontractors with whom we have contracts in place that do not allow for further, second-tier sub-contracting, we are still going to double-check with them to confirm they are doing the right thing, and I would urge the industry as a whole to do likewise.

TUPE abuse is setting a dangerous precedent

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations – better known to us all as TUPE – are designed to protect employment rights when employees transfer from one business to another. However, I’ve noticed a growing trend towards avoiding TUPE that not only threatens the entitlements of employees, but also the financial well-being of security service providers.

TUPE clearly states that employees of the previous service provider or owner automatically transfer to the new employer, and must be given the same terms and conditions. It applies to all companies regardless of size and provides clarity on outsourcing, insourcing and transfer of service contracts. I should point out that when the UK leaves the European Union (EU) TUPE will still exist in UK law, although the UK government will have the right to amend it in whichever ways it sees fit.

In my opinion the industry is a much better place for TUPE, as companies are not competing to exploit the workforce and try to win contracts by undercutting wages and eradicating existing terms and conditions. It provides a basic legal framework to adhere to and failure to comply can result in serious repercussions for any company guilty of flouting the law. Yet there has emerged a worrying threat to the protection of workers and the operational health of security service providers. This threat takes a number of different forms but all share the same intention of undermining the ethos of TUPE.

One particular case was that of McCarrick v Hunter in which the Court of Appeal held that TUPE did not apply in cases where a new client took over the facilities services, even though the service remains unchanged. Since then other dubious activities have begun to chip away at how TUPE is applied and in recent months there has been a sharp increase in the use of clauses in commercial contracts that try to avoid TUPE altogether.

One clause Corps Security came across stated, ‘The supplier warrants that it will undertake the services in such a way that none of the staff are specifically assigned to any or all of the services and that there is no organised grouping of employees dedicated to carrying out all or any of the services’. One way to comply with this would be to rotate personnel and make sure that no individual works on the same site for an extended period. This clearly is a case of trying to get around the ‘identifiable economic entity’ part of TUPE.

Other contracts state that if TUPE applies then the onus is on the security services provider to indemnify either the client or the company that takes over the contract, if personnel have to be dismissed. The implications of this move are serious and far-reaching for all in the manned guarding sector. If TUPE doesn’t apply then affected employees risk losing their employment and all accrued service rights. As for employers, they have the burden of being encumbered with a substantial unfair dismissal liability for which it is unlikely that they will have made financial provision. If the matter goes to court, it is unlikely that a judge would consider their lack of scrutiny as being a good enough reason for the contract to be overturned.

This narrow interpretation of TUPE is creating an uneven playing field and acting as encouragement to organisations to try and avoid its implementation. Although companies that are savvy enough to identify this kind of surreptitious behaviour will either decline the contract or amend it, those that aren’t could be at serious risk.

Even though instances of TUPE abuse are relatively rare, this is arguably more to do with the fact that we are operating in a low unemployment economy. Generally speaking, at the moment companies are happy for TUPE to apply, but the examples above highlight that instances of TUPE avoidance could gain further momentum if the nation’s employment situation changes.

Ultimately, there is no genuine advantage for any security services provider in accepting the types of terms that these onerous clauses stipulate, as they simply create uncertainty and put the contractor in a highly precarious position. Although there will always be a minority of companies prepared to take a risk if they perceive there to be a competitive advantage in doing so, it is up to the majority to make a stand and reject contracts that try to negate the use of TUPE. Equally, the government should recognise the value of TUPE, be rigorous in the clarification of its use and take steps to remove any ambiguities and loopholes that are currently being exploited.

The new SIA licensing system is a cause for concern

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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We all know that one of the main duties of the Security Industry Authority (SIA) is the compulsory licensing of individuals working in specific sectors of the UK’s private security industry. So given that having a licence is mandatory, you would assume that the aforementioned government body would make obtaining one as simple and hassle free as possible. Well if that’s what you think, then think again!

The SIA’s new licensing system was finally launched to great fanfare on 6th July this year following several weeks of testing – despite originally being planned for launch in December 2015. It promised to allow individuals to register for online accounts and apply for or renew SIA licences online, change personal details remotely and consent to link to their employer, who could assist with the application process.

Meanwhile, businesses were informed they could register for online accounts and have access to a range of new products. The SIA claimed, and I quote, that the new system would provide a more efficient, effective service to busy people and a growing industry.

As a company that embraces new technology and innovative ways of carrying out our activities, we were looking forward to this brave new world of security licensing. With eager anticipation, on 6th July we went online and were prepared to be amazed. Unfortunately, despite the SIA’s bold claims, we have found that the result of all its activity is nothing short of a complete and utter fiasco. When it comes to detailing exactly what is going wrong with this supposedly new and improved system, the problem is knowing where to start.

Although we received an email confirmation on 6th July telling us that we had successfully set up a business account, it took us until 23rd August to actually be in a position to get the system working to any kind of satisfactory level. As an SIA Approved Contractor we took the option to use the new Licence Assist service and fill in and pay for applications on behalf of our colleagues and check the licensable status of licence holders.

On 14th July we received an email stating that ‘Within the last few days you will have received a notification from us indicating the set-up of your Direct Debit for paying for licences using our new service is complete, unfortunately this notification was sent in error. We can confirm that the set-up of your Direct Debit is in progress and we expect this to take up to 10 days from instigation’. At this point we knew that things were not going to be smooth and, quite frankly, the whole process of setting up a Direct Debit was a farce. In its wisdom, the SIA even closed its contact centre, making it impossible to speak to anyone for advice about account set up and, just to compound the problem, response times were well outside of those stated.

Although the system now works in simple cases, it grinds to a halt where anomalies exist. We have had to ask our employees to try to carry out the process themselves and, if successful, claim the cost of the exercise back. With 1,000 people a year renewing licences, this has created a huge logistical and operational burden to us – one that we could really do without. A third of our applications are having problems and are now sitting in limbo.

Having recognised a problem exists, approved contractors were allowed to issue licence dispensation notices (LDNs) at an earlier stage of the application cycle for up to 20% of their workforce (a rise from the usual 15%) in order ‘to alleviate the impact on industry’. Initially, this interim measure allowed for a LDN to be issued for a period of five weeks but this has now been extended to 10 weeks. Although it means that we can continue to deploy staff to contracts this situation is far from satisfactory and the fact that channels of verbal communication are non-existent and online responses are taking weeks to come through really isn’t helping matters.

I can only assume that our experience is one that is being shared by organisations across the industry. As I write, rather than seeing improvement, the situation is getting even further out of hand and will surely have a real impact on how businesses are able to operate. It seriously casts doubt upon the SIA’s ability to configure a system like this and I can only hope that someone takes charge of the situation sooner rather than later.

Second guessing the terrorists keeps getting harder

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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We live in a world that has become accustomed to terrorist atrocities. The recent incident in Nice, where 84 people were killed, represented a shocking new level of violence. Just days later in Munich, an 18-year-old male opened fire on shoppers and restaurant diners and killed 10 of them. These events highlight a growing and disturbing trend, whereby rather than working as part of a group or cell, radicalised individuals or ‘lone wolves’ are able to fly under the radar of the security services due their willingness and determination to act alone.

Although there is clearly a rise in this type of activity, lone attackers operating under a model of leaderless resistance is nothing new and spans the political and religious spectrum. For example, anti-Islamist Anders Breivik set off a car bomb in Oslo and then journeyed to the island of Utoya to massacre scores of youths attending a summer camp, killing 77 people in all.

There have also been lone wolf plots and attacks by neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other ‘single issue’ extremists. In fact, a recent study led by the Royal United Services Institute found that when it comes to attacks by lone wolves without guidance from an outside group, the extreme right is behind as many events as Islamic extremists.

It is all too easy to dismiss lone wolves as just seriously disturbed individuals who are mad, bad or both. While they hold views that go against the vast majority of others in civilised society, these people are what the security services refer to as ‘clean skins’ – a term used to describe those who have a spotless criminal record, a history that doesn’t arouse suspicion and no connection with the security services. With this type of background, it is incredibly difficult to identify and monitor lone wolves. The problem is compounded by the fact that they often have no communication with others.

Unfortunately, working alone also makes it far more likely for those with malicious intent to succeed in their endeavours, and the methods they use to carry out atrocities are usually basic but deadly. As the Nice attack demonstrated, bombs and guns are not always necessary – carnage can be caused just as easily through items that are around us every day.

Although the proliferation of lone wolves poses an insidious and covert threat, in my view it makes it all the more vital that security professionals work with the wider security services and the general public in a comprehensive effort to increase vigilance and identify suspicious behaviour. It is incumbent upon us all to recognise the threat, take it seriously and do everything possible to minimise the danger to people, property and assets.

Security professionals must be on high alert to the potential impact of threats on the organisations that they are tasked to protect. Knowledge, information and intelligence must guide and shape this approach, especially in terms of risk and threat assessments, and determining security policy and strategy.

Every situation is unique and a security strategy necessitates the integration of a range of measures including manned guarding, CCTV, access control, lighting and remote monitoring. It may also be necessary to deliver on-site training to enhance an organisation’s existing security measures. This will help personnel identify and respond to potential threats and give them confidence in the organisation’s ability to keep them safe.

When it comes to manned guarding, companies that specialise in protecting certain types of environments possess unique knowledge of the threats posed to specific kinds of establishments. A specialist provider will be able to deploy individuals who have been given skills that enable them to perform their roles to the highest standard. This includes, for example, Operation Fairway based training relating to the identification of suspicious behaviour, guiding the public to safety in the event of an attack, how to carry out sensitive questioning and hostile reconnaissance recognition.

In order to stand the best chance of spotting lone wolves, the public must also do its bit by reporting any suspicious behaviour. Put simply, terrorists operating under this model are far more likely to be seen by ordinary citizens with good situational awareness than they are by an individual counterterrorism agent.

Also, in the event of a terrorist attack, minimising the level of damage is paramount and at the end of last year, the National Police Chiefs’ Council produced a four-minute video titled Stay Safe: Firearms and Weapons Attack, which outlined its ‘run, hide, tell’ policy.

Summing up my own views on this particular subject, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Neil Basu, said at the time of the video’s launch, ‘With the threat level remaining at a high level, the police and security service continue to operate at a heightened state of readiness – we are working on hundreds of investigations and making an arrest a day. However, it is only with the ongoing support of communities that we can defeat terrorism – you are our eyes and ears so please be alert, but not alarmed.’

We are living in troubled times and it appears that the apparent proliferation and success of lone wolf attacks represents a frightening new development in terrorist activity. It is, therefore, imperative that individuals and organisations fully understand the dangers posed by potential adversaries, understand their motives and take appropriate action. It is only by doing so that we will all be in the best possible position to address this clear and present danger and ensure that the terrorists don’t ‘win’ the wider battle to disrupt our way of life.

 

The votes are in…

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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In the final analysis, the British electorate has voted to leave the European Union. Over the last few months the polls have reflected a gradual shift towards leaving, so today’s results are, in some way, unsurprising. I don’t think I’m alone, however, in registering concern at the outcome of this referendum.

As I said in a previous blog post, the implications of the path that has been chosen concern me. The very real prospect of negative impact on our economy; the re-writing of 40 years’ worth of rules and regulations; the potential threat to our security that leaving might pose. All of these give me cause for concern.

The EU has changed dramatically from the one that originally comprised six founding states – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. As I said previously, with 28 members the issues and complexities surrounding union are greater than before, and can often seem intractable. Yet the EU is, to a great degree, the ”devil we know.”

So, while these are very much early days, pulling out of the EU may now throw the nation into a period of prolonged disruption, for no clear advantage. It’s for this reason that I stated my position to be a “reluctant European”.

What’s next?

In terms of next steps, the referendum provides a clear indication of the people’s wishes, but in itself does not trigger the departure from the EU. Unlike the 2011 referendum on electoral reform, which included an obligation on the government to legislate in the event of a “yes”, the concrete results of today’s news have no legal consequence.

The referendum clearly provides a mandate, however, for those that wish to leave the union. The next steps therefore will require the UK Government to invoke chapter 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which is the mechanism by which EU members may leave the union.

Crucially, the manner of achieving this is down to the member. I cannot imagine that the Government would take such a significant step without some form of parliamentary approval, although this presents a challenge at the very first hurdle – for a parliamentary vote on the referendum results might be taken as an attempt to overturn the ‘will of the people’.

Given that some mechanism is found to ratify the decision supported by the referendum, article 50 then allows the UK two years to negotiate a mutually acceptable withdrawal from the EU. Whether this is achievable in that timeframe is questionable – but the two-year deadline is a ‘hard stop’ to proceedings.

Looking much further into the future, I remain concerned about what we have let ourselves in for. There is a mass of legislation in place that will need to be repealed and replaced. These rules cover important regulations that govern our industry, and others, and to which all organisations currently work.

For example, The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) is our implementation of the European Union Business Transfers Directive.  Will it be ripped up and renegotiated, causing uncertainty and confusion in the marketplace?

As David Allen Green wrote in the Financial Times (£) shortly before the referendum:

“The task of repeal and replacement will take years to complete, if it is ever completed. Even if the key legislation — especially the European Communities Act 1972 — is repealed there will have to be holding and saving legislation for at least a political generation.”

Regular readers know my views on bureaucracy. I am usually first in line with the matches when it comes to a bonfire of red tape. But I wonder if we appreciate the scale and complexity of what we are embarking on – and the uncertainty that our voyage will create?

What would you do if disaster struck?

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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We live in uncertain and worrying times. The current UK threat level for international terrorism is severe, meaning that an attack is highly likely, and there appears to be a proliferation of natural disasters such as flooding, storms, fires and even sinkholes, occurring with alarming frequency. It’s not until an unplanned and unexpected event occurs that an organisation’s true vulnerabilities are exposed, which is why organisational resilience is far more than just a trendy buzz-phrase – it could be the difference between the destruction of a business and the potential loss of life, and staying safe and secure.

Working in the security industry, it’s always surprising just how often I hear the words ‘it’ll never happen to us’. I think there’s a certain amount of denial in people not wishing to think the worst and trying to remain optimistic. Although there’s nothing wrong with a bit of optimism, when it takes the place of realism it’s a problem.

Even though the world has become a more dangerous place since 2001, the need for organisational resilience should not be thought of only in terms of terrorism – there are of course the problems associated with more natural disasters.

We can all remember a couple of years ago when torrential rain triggered flooding, affecting many homes and businesses. Major cities are not immune from mother-nature’s wrath either, and as recently February this year flood alerts were put in place for London after the River Thames burst its banks due to tides and heavy rain. A total of 16 warnings were issued, as water levels reached almost as high as the pavements in some parts of central London.

Therefore, having a strategy in place that can help deal with an unplanned event while it is actually happening is vital in order to protect people and property. Organisational resilience is the term used to determine how adaptable, competitive, agile and robust an enterprise is, and encourages a proactive and determined attitude to dealing with incidents. Put simply, it should be on the radars of public and private enterprises of all kinds.

In late 2014, BSI published BS 65000 Guidance for Organizational Resilience. This landmark standard provides an overview of resilience, describing the foundations required and explaining how to build it in to all aspects of an operation. It deals with an organisation’s capacity to anticipate, respond and adapt – which could be crucial to its survival. Organisational resilience works alongside existing risk, crisis and business continuity management strategies to provide a solid defence against anything that could affect an enterprise.

Although they are linked, organisational resilience should always be considered separately to disaster recovery and business continuity. While these two processes deal with the immediate after-effects, organisational resilience is concerned with what happens during an event itself. There are three key elements to organisational resilience – anticipation, preparation and response. It involves being aware of potential situations and the risks, vulnerabilities and capabilities involved in dealing with them, as well as the need to be able to make informed tactical and strategic decisions.

The best way to maximise the effectiveness of such a strategy is by integrating and coordinating the various operational disciplines throughout an organisation. Security forms an important part of organisational resilience, regardless of whether it applies to physical, financial, personnel, cyber or any other asset. Effective resilience requires more than just a defensive security and protection approach though, and necessitates the use of an organisation’s inherent strength to withstand a crisis and deflect attacks. While all of the above is vital, so too is stakeholder buy-in. Certain individuals must also be given decision-making responsibilities for major calls such as whether to evacuate, invacuate or even lockdown a premises.

In my opinion, this is where specialist security services providers like Corps Security, which can deal with the wider issues surrounding organisational resilience, are an important part of the jigsaw. The ability to complete strategic security reviews, develop corporate security policy and strategy documents, carry out risk and threat assessments and security audits, as well as train personnel, should not be underestimated.

Enterprises that take organisational resilience seriously increase their chances of maintaining successful and thriving enterprises that can deal with unplanned events immediately, rather than relying on a disaster recovery or business continuity strategy to kick in. If all organisations take this step it will also strengthen the national infrastructure, which is why influential bodies like the government’s Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) are taking it so seriously.

So is organisational resilience scaremongering or a call to action that should be heeded? I know what I think and I’d like to hear your opinions on the subject.

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A voyage into uncertainty

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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With just a few weeks left until the public takes to the polling booths for the UK’s European Union (EU) referendum, debate is still raging about whether the nation’s future would be better served being in, or out. In my opinion the process so far has been riddled on both sides with conjecture and misinformation. All this has served to do is leave voters confused, and not enough is being done to inform UK businesses and the public at large about the true impact of Brexit.

Not surprisingly, politicians and other commentators have resorted to scare tactics, while Boris Johnson and David Cameron seem embroiled in a personal battle that does little to truly inform the debate. With so many potential ramifications, I think that people will go with their gut instincts and focus on the issues that are important to them.

The question is whether their concerns about national sovereignty, immigration and/or the growing power of Brussels, will outweigh the possible damage to trade relations, foreign policy and national security.

Weighing up the choices

For most of us the issue is not black and white and the outcome will be very close. In fact, results from a poll of polls conducted by NatCen Social Research suggested that exactly 50 per cent of voters support Brexit and 50 per cent would like the UK to remain.

It’s time to state my personal position (and not that of Corps Security) and whilst I firmly believe that many of the EU’s systems and legislation could be greatly improved on, in my opinion the pros of membership outweigh the cons. From a purely economic and business point of view, the UK is deeply connected by trade to the rest of the EU, with just over 44 per cent of all our exports going to Europe. Those in favour of Brexit counter that the UK is an important market for EU members such as Germany, France and Italy and point that the UK accounts for 16% of EU exports – although in fairness a far larger share of EU exports, some 45%, go to the rest of the world.

Regardless, there’s no doubt that a decision to leave would have significant consequences for business. However, the extent of any disruption would very much depend on the terms and timing of new trade agreements.

Again, the simple truth is that we simply don’t know what would happen. Those in favour of leaving have used comparative analysis with Norway and Switzerland to try and paint a picture about how a non-EU UK would look and operate. Even then there are different ways to go – Norway is a member of the European Economic Area and pays most of the regular costs of EU membership to retain most of the same trade privileges. Crucially, Norway must apply the same free movement rules as EU member states, but has no vote on the rules. Switzerland uses bilateral trade agreements, as it is part of the single market in goods, but not services. EU citizens are permitted to live or work in Switzerland.

However, Justice Minister and senior Leave campaigner Michael Gove recently said that the UK would surely quit the single European market in the event of a vote to leave the EU; an event that a large majority of economists suggest would be the most disruptive option for the UK. In reality, leaving the EU but maintaining access to the single market would mean paying a similar contribution to that paid at present and still allowing freedom of movement. Yet these two issues are central to the Leave campaign cause, and Brexit campaigners feel passionate about removing them.

Extricating the UK from Europe would not be an overnight process. Pinning our hopes on carving out separate trade agreements with various countries sounds fine in principle, but how long would it take and what would happen in the meantime? During his visit here last month, US President, Barack Obama, stated that it could take up to 10 years to negotiate trade deals and that the UK would have ‘less influence in Europe and as a consequence, less influence globally’. Some accused Obama of using scare tactics and UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, dismissed his comments as ‘utter tosh’. I’m not sure. Negotiations between Canada and the EU on trade have taken seven years to date, and the agreement as it stands still has to be ratified by the European Council and Parliament

The dangers of disruption

For me the biggest cause for concern about leaving the EU is the disruption to business that it could cause. Indeed, we’re already getting a taste of it, and in April the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook stated that the EU referendum campaign has created uncertainty for investors and weakened the pound. It said that between August 2015 and February 2016 the pound depreciated by seven per cent, although sceptics have pointed out that the IMF was circumspect about how much of this was down to the possibility of Brexit.

There is also the concern about legislation. Brexiteers point to a perceived mass of red tape issued from Brussels; yet the OECD claims that the UK has the least-regulated labour market in Europe. Further, as a leader in the Economist noted of UK legislation: “The most damaging measures, such as planning restrictions and the new living wage, are home-grown.”

The legislation that can be traced back to Brussels often took many years to negotiate, and this is now firmly set in stone. Unravelling this legislation may be unnecessary, or indeed undesirable, but it may simply be too tempting for a future UK government to avoid taking apart – so creating yet more uncertainty in the market. Witness The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE), which is our implementation of the European Union Business Transfers Directive. Leaving the EU would give those in power carte blanche to amend the current TUPE process – one that on the whole works well for the business to business industry in creating a marketplace where companies do not compete on the basis of who would exploit the workforce the most. Any changes to TUPE, rather than making life easier, could once again make life a whole lot more complicated and throw the whole B2B services market into confusion.

A secure future

We also need to consider our role in preventing the rise of global terrorism and working with other EU member states to combat Islamic State (IS). This is an area of major concern and the recent horrific attacks in Brussels not only reminded us of the lengths Islamic extremists are prepared to go, it also highlighted how vulnerable we are.

The cooperation between the police and the security services across Europe is a major advantage in the fight against terrorism and the UK has a considerable role to play. Furthermore, as a part of the EU, we are currently able to gain access to a network containing details of 300,000 wanted criminals and missing people, in addition to benefitting from the European Arrest Warrant process.

Although others agree with former MI6 head, Sir Richard Dearlove, that EU-based security bodies are of ‘little consequence’, I believe that changing the system now could potentially leave gaps that could be easily exploited by those with malicious intent. This view is shared by former MI6 boss, Sir John Sawers, who has warned that an independent UK would be shut out of decisions on the issue of data sharing.

There’s no doubt that if we decide to leave there will be repercussions for those operating in the UK’s security industry. How extensive these changes could be would depend upon the type of business concerned. For instance, for those operating in the UK only, border controls and duty would obviously be less of an issue than for those providing products and services further afield.

Being pragmatic about a passionate issue

Ultimately, my fear is that the broader uncertainties created by a vote to leave would affect all of those in the industry, whether they operate solely in the UK, or in the EU.

It’s true that the EU is a very different beast to the one that originally comprised six founding states – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Now with 28 members, the issues and complexities surrounding it are greater and can often seem intractable.

Yet we have to put emotion to one side and be practical. The issue is simply too important and it would carry too much unnecessary risk to pull out of the EU and throw the nation into a period of prolonged disruption for no clear advantage. For this reason I am, as the Economist put it in a recent article, the “Reluctant European”.

The views stated in this blog are personal to Peter Webster and are not necessarily representative of Corps Security’s position on this subject.

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