From the top · 19 May 2016

Celebrities are having their say on Brexit, but entrepreneurs couldn’t care less

Michael Caine
Michael Caine has hit out about his desire for Britain to leave the EU

With the EU referendum now just over a month away, Britain is weighing up its options – looking to any and all sources of information to help make up its mind whether to vote to “Leave” or “Remain” on 23 June.

Commentators of all persuasions and opinions have had their voices heard. Figureheads from the worlds of politics, journalism, finance, sport, TV and film have all had their two cents, as Brexit becomes the nation’s go-to talking point.

However, research from accountants Sage has revealed that Britain’s entrepreneurs and small business owners want to let the facts around Brexit speak for themselves. Uninterested in what either politicians or celebrities have to say on the matter, over half the UK’s small business leaders said it’s the facts alone that will have the biggest impact on their voting choices.

The results of a Sage survey showed that 56 per cent of entrepreneurs and small business owners said bare facts alone would help them to decide on Brexit, whilst 17 per cent said they’d follow their gut instincts. Just one per cent claimed that politicians or other public personalities would be the biggest influence on their decision.

Sage’s European president Brendan Flattery explained why he thought entrepreneurs and small business owners were hungry for the real information. He said: “Barely a day goes by that there’s not another surreal, sensationalist claim in the media – from claims of a world economic slowdown if we leave, to Britain becoming a ‘hostage’ to the EU if we stay.

“We need a balanced argument on both sides rather than continuing in with ridiculous assertions from big personalities.”

But which celebrities have so far spoken out about Brexit? Below you might find some recognisable names that have already planted their flag firmly in either the “Leave” or “Remain” camp.

Voting to Leave

Michael Caine

The iconic actor of The Italian Job and Zulu fame was lauded earlier this year by UKIP leader Nigel Farage when he hit out against the “faceless civil servants” in Brussels. Caine told reporters at the time: “Unless there are some extremely significant changes, we should get out. You cannot be dictated to by a government by-proxy that has got carried away.”

Sol Campbell

The former England and Arsenal football star has been outspoken in his support of a Brexit because he thinks that current EU freedom of movement rules limit young British players’ ability to progress in the game.

“If we want to see more English starts like Harry Kane rise through the ranks we should take back control and vote to leave, I care deeply about the future of football and I want the next generation to have the same opportunity in life that I had,” Campbell said.

Ian Botham

The 60 year-old former England cricketing legend claimed recently that the £50m Britain spends via Brussels each day “gets swallowed up by corruption”. In the past, Botham has reportedly branded the EU a “racket” and has urged the public to “reclaim our basic sovereignty”.

Voting to Remain

Karen Brady

The 47 year-old businesswomen, TV personality, West Ham United vice-chair and one of Business Advice’s 30 Small Business Decision Makers 2016 has claimed Brexit would have a “devastating” effect on British football clubs, as well as the economy more widely. The Tory peer went as far as to write a letter to football clubs, warning them of the consequences for the competitiveness of British football and the country.

Stephen Hawking

Professor Stephen Hawking has called on the UK to vote to remain in the EU because of the impact it could have on the scientific community. Hawking claimed that a Brexit would be a “disaster for UK science” adding that funding from Europe was important in maintaining the evolution of UK scientific research.

In a letter to The Times earlier this year, Hawking and other researchers wrote: “Increased funding has raised greatly the level of European science as a whole and of the UK in particular because we have a competitive edge. We now recruit many of our best researchers from continental Europe, including younger ones who have obtained EU grants and have chosen to move them here.” 

Emma Thompson

The Love Actually actress claimed that leaving the EU would be “madness” for Britain at this year’s International Film Festival in Berlin. “Even though I live in Scotland, I feel more `European than I do English. We should be taking down borders, not putting them up,” she added.

Will Brexit cut red tape for startups or cut vital life support? Read on to find out more.

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.