EEF: EU ‘Out’ campaign offers only abyss of uncertainty and risk

Posted on 24 Feb 2016 by Jonny Williamson

The ‘out’ campaign to persuade Britain to leave the EU has no tangible benefits to show voters and can only offer an abyss of uncertainty and risk, the chair of the body representing Britain’s manufacturers will tell a senior business audience this evening.

Addressing the audience of EEF annual dinner, Martin Temple will argue the positive case, both economically and politically, for staying in the EU.

Martin Temple, chair, EEF.
Martin Temple, chair, EEF.

He will also call for the UK to take a leading role in driving reform from within and, for the UK’s elected politicians to lead this rather than simply giving up and taking the UK out.

EU economics

Highlighting the importance of the EU economically, Temple will comment: “Our manufacturers, big and small depend on access to it, its supply chains and production networks.

“Large and easy access to market matters far more than just its spending power. It matters because it is a platform for scale. Big domestic markets allow their companies to grow quickly and take a strong global position. Big in Europe, big in the world.

He will continue: “The EU is a useful whipping post for populists but the facts of our economic lives in Britain are European.

“The job of our elected politicians is to commit themselves to using the power and influence they have to make it work better, rather than make excuses about the limitations they face, and simply giving up and taking us out into an abyss of uncertainty and risk.”

High value, high skill jobs

Temple will also highlight the attractiveness of the UK being in the EU as a magnet for Foreign Direct Investment and the risk to high value, high skill jobs should the UK leave.

EEF published a survey of manufacturers on Monday, showing that:

  • Independent new poll shows that 61% of EEF members want the UK to remain in the EU, while just 5% support a ‘Brexit’
  • 79% of the pro-EU say that the outcome of government negotiations will have little or no bearing on their view
  • Majority of EEF members say that remaining in the EU is important (50%) or business critical (20%) for their company
  • Top advantage for business of remaining in the EU is that it makes it easier for UK companies to start exporting (81%) – top disadvantage is red tape (72%)
  • 82% of EEF members say it doesn’t make sense for the UK to cut itself off from its major market
  • 82% agree that the UK has a key role to play in helping the EU to deliver greater value and efficiency

“In short, the great risk of leaving is that our country would be economically poorer. Being in the EU gives us certainty, whereas those who argue we should leave can only offer uncertainty and risk with few, if any, real tangible benefits,” he will assert.

“The risk our companies might be less prosperous, the jobs of the people who work for them less secure, their future pension worth less. We have to convince people, in a language they understand that, economically, they and their families have a quality of life which is better for us being a member.

“The job of our elected politicians is to commit themselves to using the power and influence they have to make it work better, rather than make excuses about the limitations they face, and simply give up and taking us out into an abyss of uncertainty and risk.”

World affairs

Temple will also warn of the political risks of leaving and a diminished role for the UK in world affairs.

“Were we to leave the EU now at a time when the continent faces challenges, perhaps greater than at any time since its creation, from a volatile Middle East and, a turbulent world economy, nobody knows what will happen.

“But, what I do know, there is a risk it will create considerable uncertainty and could make these dangers still more threatening,” he will state.

“Domestically, an English exit majority, with the potential opposite outcome in Scotland, would put even greater strain on the Union.

“Internationally, leaving would diminish both our, and the EU’s, place in the world and significantly affect the relations countries such as the US, Russia and Asian powers have with the UK and Europe.”

Temple will add, however, that Europe cannot remain where it is and that a ‘one size all fits’ policy cannot be the only option going forward.

Worth fighting for

Praising the Prime Minister’s attempts to fight for change, he will say: “The Prime Minister may, or may not, have agreed a good deal for us last week. That’s a matter of personal opinion but, what he is fighting for is worth having.

“The recognition there is more than one way forward than “ever closer political union”, the stress on the importance of competitiveness, lower business costs and protection for countries outside the eurozone are important in themselves.

“They also have a broader importance in the shape of a rebuff for the dead hand of Brussels bureaucracy, a recognition that the social market needs a bit more market and, that the problems facing countries from the Balkans to the Baltic to Iberia cannot be shoehorned into a single “one size fits all” policy.”

At its annual conference today, EEF will be the first business organisation to host an open debate on the pros and cons of EU membership.

Speaking will be Damian Green MP, chair of the Conservative European Mainstream Group, and Matthew Elliott of Vote Leave.