David Cameron
David Cameron wants Britain to stay in the EU but he's got competition in Mayor of London Boris JohnsonGetty Images

A potential European Brexit has dominated the papers and caused controversy since the start of the week. I think it's safe to say nobody expected Mayor of London and media mogul Boris Johnson – famous for his pro-cake musings "My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it" – to dispute fellow Etonite and Prime Minister David Cameron's adamancy to remain a significant member of the European Union.

But, alas, Johnson is now the face of the "leave" campaign and has managed to convert many new Eurosceptics and inspire would-be voters to follow his lead, as a trustworthy voice to consider.

This game-changing moment has stimulated discussion everywhere as people begin to compile a list of pros and cons in an attempt to help them decide where they stand and who they'll be backing when it comes to the referendum.

Cameron, along with several FTSE chiefs, who this week signed a letter in agreement that we should maintain within the EU to support business development, believe a Brexit will put jobs at risk, deter investment in the UK and negativity effect our economy.

I know many business owners will be worried about how their own trading will be affected by the decision, asking questions like: will my exporting efforts alter if we're no longer part of the EU? Surely a Brexit will mean we're no longer as attractive for overseas investors using the UK as a gateway to Europe?

The general consensus in the pro-Europe camp is the UK's status as one of the world's biggest financial centres will come under threat if it is no longer seen as a key player within the EU. Instead, they will incur more trading costs, be at risk of losing European funding and global manufacturers will end up moving to lower cost EU countries, thus putting hundreds of jobs at risk.

If we opt 'out', will that mean air travel will double in price? What about visas – will a visa be required if we want to visit Spain? What about mobile roaming prices, will these be effected?

Not mentioning the potential risk of parting with benefits such as paid holidays, extra maternity rights and better conditions for part-time workers which the EU originally gave us access to.

So, is an amicable divorce feasible? Those voting to "remain" would say this is just a pipe dream – that we are kidding ourselves if we think the EU will let us go and still offer great terms... negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement could take years and if Britain went for a completely clean break with the EU, its exports would be subject to tariffs and would still have to meet EU production standards, harming the competitiveness of British business.

However, there is a flip side. Eurosceptics hold on to an ideology of democracy and letting us have the final decision – as Tony Benn, a well-known "leave" voter once cited "...you will be governed by people whom you do not elect and cannot remove".

The notion of governing ourselves and making our own decisions, trusting the government elected by our people to make the right decisions for the people is something very high on the agenda for the opposition.

Not only this, but Britain could save billions of pounds in membership fees if it left the EU while maintaining strong trading links with EU nations after negotiations, making more money readily available for further investment and avoiding tariffs caused by red tape.

In my opinion, the biggest issue we're faced with regarding this debate is lack of understanding. How can we be expected to make a considered, intelligent decision when the arguments presented to us are so woolly and top level? How will a Brexit effect the average man on the street, that's what we want to know.

If we opt to "leave", will that mean air travel will double in price? What about visas – will a visa be required if we want to visit Spain? What about mobile roaming prices, will these be affected? Everybody is talking about exporting and how pricing will change if we vote to "leave" but can you prove that? Where are the facts?

The answer is, there aren't any facts. The UK has never experienced a Brexit, so we have no idea what to expect – this fear of the unknown is the most worrying thing.

This isn't a time to follow personalities and become hoodwinked by phrases. We don't want to follow a US model.

Teamed with the fact that nobody has managed to explain how this would affect us as a population or given us a list of clear objectives to inform our decision, it's no surprise the general public are struggling to decide.

So what are we left with? Some vague promises from both Cameron and Johnson which don't really mean anything to the average UK worker. This isn't a time to follow personalities and become hoodwinked by phrases. We don't want to follow a US model.

I believe our government has a responsibility to share information that allows us to make a decision that we are happy with, one we personally believe is absolutely the right thing to do. This isn't as easy as deciding what to eat for dinner this evening, the outcome of this referendum could change the UK as we know it forever.

I want to see tangible examples. Johnson has told us this is a moment to "be brave, to reach out" but how can we do this if we aren't able to fully understand what exactly we're reaching out for?

We're living in a world that's more uncertain than ever before but this debate is something we cannot afford to be uncertain about. We cannot predict the outcome but we can do our best to understand the repercussions of our vote, whichever way we decide to swing.


James Caan CBE is founder and CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw, a venture capital firm based in Mayfair, and a former panellist on BBC series Dragons' Den.