F1 and Brexit

Britain is the home of eight of the 11 Formula 1 teams: Force India, Haas, Manor, McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull racing, Renault and Williams. In addition to this, Scuderia Toro Rosso has a significant staff in Britain, working on its aerodynamic and design programmes. Thus, the idea that the country will pull out of the European Union would likely create a lot of problems in F1, not least with such things as transportation, visas, work permits and so on.

It really depends to what extent the British would decide to withdraw, if the vote went in favour of a break with Europe. Having said that, there is no real reason why the Europeans would be helpful in such a situation and thus there are question about whether there would be tariffs on exports and imports in addition to much more difficult working rules and regulations. What would the impact be on Formula 1? Who knows?

Mercedes engines are built in Britain, but the others are built elsewhere, but Honda does not seem to have too many problems importing and exporting its engines, it is just a matter of paperwork. This would be the primary difference if there was no single economic unit: things would take longer to do. Perhaps there would be more visas required to travel around the world; perhaps there would be less. Europe, for all of its faults, is quite efficient when it comes to the movement of people and goods.

The vote will take place on June 23 when Britons will answer the question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” The justification for the referendum is that the British people have not had a say on this question since 1975. Fair enough.

The EU costs the country about 1.4 percent of its total public annual spending, which is less than the budget of the Department of Energy & Climate Change, but some of the campaigners for Britain to leave believe that Britain is being held back by EU rules. They also want Britain to retake full control of its borders and reduce the number of people who come to England to work.

There are 3 million foreign citizens living in the UK and they make up 10.5 percent of the British workforce. A lot of the people working in England in F1 are from aboard. At the same time there are 1.26 million British citizens living in EU countries.

In F1 terms, there are quite a lot at Ferrari, Scuderia Toro Rosso and at Sauber, although the latter is not part of the EU. 

There are already problems with Sauber’s location, such as Switzerland’s law regarding the weight of trucks, which requires Sauber to build vehicles that are lighter than their rivals and thus more expensive. However, work permits do not seem to be a problem, once the paperwork has been waded through.

Business in the UK clearly favours staying in the EU and the country’s automotive sector, which contributes $22 billion to the economy and employs 800,000 people,  could suffer if Britain leaves the EU. Europe accounts for 57.5 percent of the cars exported from the UK, the next biggest market being the US with just 11 percent. Toyota, one of the biggest car manufacturers in Britain, has warned it will be forced to make significant cutbacks if the country votes to leave the EU, while BMW board member Ian Robertson has said that the Munich company (which builds cars in the UK) believes that Britain would be better off if it remained in the EU. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which is the lobbying body of the motor industry in the UK, says that three-quarters of its members want to stay in Europe.

It is really rather difficult to predict the changes that will come if Britain does leave, but the one thing that one can say is that if the country does nothing, things will not change. In F1 terms that is probably good enough logic. Why create problems F1 doesn’t need?

However, it is perhaps worth noting that the referendum will be seen as a stroke of genius if the vote is to stay in Europe. It will deal with the problems posed by the right-wing UKIP in such a way as to render the party obsolete once the vote is taken. If Prime Minister David Cameron succeeds in doing this, he will end up as the only major European country that does not have worries about right-wing extremism, which is a quite an achievement in this day and age.