When I started my consulting business three years ago, even though I had been planning it for some time, it was still quite scary. For the first time in my life I had no monthly cheque to look forward to at the end of the month. Would I get enough work in to cover my expenses? Luckily I managed to pull in a big job quite quickly. It was a project on the borderline between pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, which was just the kind of thing that I could offer and which not too many other people could. Without this bit of luck I might have had to get a job instead. And with all due humility – it was quite handy for the client that they found me. They are a start up too and getting some help early on must have been beneficial.
Let’s trace back where this bit of business came from. It was passed on to me by a consultant in the pharma business who knew about my particular mix of expertise. She knew because we had met up at a meeting in London organised by the EMA. It is meetings like this that are very important if you want to get to know people you might be able to work with.
Why am I telling you this? Well this week in the UK we have the big referendum on whether or not to stay in the European Union. If the coverage is to be believed the vote is going to be close. If you are younger and better educated you are more likely to be voting to stay in. I have a feeling that most of my readers fall into that category. Not being particularly young myself I can’t comment on why young people are pro-EU. But I can point to my experience as a concrete example of the benefits of staying in.
The EMA, or European Medicines Agency, is run by the EU to co-ordinate the policy of all the countries in the union to medical matters. This is obviously a good idea – who wants to waste their life struggling with 30 different legislations?
But it is also quite a plum to have it based in London. This has the obvious advantage of bringing a large number of jobs to the city. But its less obvious role in creating a network of contacts between people is even more valuable. People are always coming there for meetings and other reasons. There will have been countless examples of chance meetings like mine leading to things happening in the UK rather than elsewhere. It is impossible to put a firm value on it, but it is worth a lot. Networks are really key to the way business is done in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. I suspect this is the case with many other industries too.
If we leave the EU we will certainly find the EMA being relocated, and other countries will fight tooth and nail to get hold of it for themselves. Don’t expect to get it back if we later rejoin – it will be gone for good.
As I say – most readers of this blog are likely to being voting to stay in already. And if you are supporting it for idealistic reasons, good for you. I applaud your public spirit and human empathy. But it is always good to have a new reason for a decision you have already made.