The UK must remain part of the European Union with ‘no ifs or buts’, Britain’s manufacturers have told the Prime Minister and party leaders in a major report and survey published today.
In a letter to the leaders of all three main political parties, Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF said Britain’s membership of the EU is central to businesses and their investment plans in the short and long-term.
Eighty-five per cent of EEF’s members who expressed a view said they would vote now to remain in the EU, according to the report Manufacturing: Our Future in Europe.
Manufacturers say membership is critical to exports, and the economic benefits far outweigh concerns about regulation or the repatriation of powers.
And companies warn that the UK’s membership is central to their investment and business plans. A third said that if the UK was to leave the EU, they were less likely to increase investment in Britain. And two thirds indicated that they would have to make significant changes to their business plans if the UK exits.
Mr Scuoler urged party leaders not to gamble on the UK’s future in Europe and said that membership of the EU is central to business growth and investment plans. He called on them to get behind a new deal on Europe, and to lead a debate where the focus is on Britain’s economic potential. He said Government should tie any new settlement on Europe into making the EU work better for growth.
Three in five manufacturers contacted by EEF said they believe government should focus on improving competitiveness across Europe rather than negotiate special deals or opt-outs for Britain.
Mr Scuoler challenged ministers to:
- Set the terms of the debate – which should be about securing the best outcome for the UK’s economy and selling a compelling proposition to businesses and the public about the benefits of European membership
- Take the lead to secure tangible economic gains for the UK and other member states – by refocusing discussion on trade, innovation, single market completion and a coherent and systematic reduction of red tape
- Be better at being in Europe – as the UK is not an outlier in wanting change.
“Britain must not gamble on its future in Europe. The stakes are enormous. It is naïve to think we can simply pull up the drawbridge and carry on as normal. The debate must move on to how we can make Europe work to support jobs, growth and higher living standards,” Mr Scouler said.
“We need to focus on the real prize – how we can get Europe to work better supporting companies that are looking to sell into the EU, to export to new markets in the rest of the world and develop new products and services.
“We must be at the centre of the change we want to see in Europe, to help secure the prize and ensure we share in it. Billions of pounds of trading opportunities are at stake and we must keep the focus – and the wider debate – on these opportunities which will unleash growth in our economy now and in the longer term.”