European business leaders back PM’s push for competitive EU

Posted on 17 Feb 2016 by Jonny Williamson

European business leaders are backing the Prime Minister’s drive to make the EU more competitive ahead of the European Council this week.

The CBI and its counterparts in Germany, France, Italy and 16 other EU Member States – who together speak on behalf of more than 2.5 million businesses, employing over 50 million people – have published a joint letter backing reforms that will make the EU more competitive and outward-looking to deliver jobs, security and prosperity across Europe.

In the letter they also recognise that not all Member States wish to be part of a drive for further integration, agreeing that non-Eurozone countries should have their position in the wider single market safeguarded.

The 21 federations believe that while the referendum is a matter for the British people, they support the UK’s continued membership of a reformed EU.

The letter states:

“Business is an essential part of the solution to many of the challenges facing the EU but companies need a strong and globally competitive European economy. We therefore want to see a more competitive EU – a key pillar of the UK’s negotiations on its EU membership – which will be beneficial for citizens across the continent.

“Looking ahead to the UK’s forthcoming referendum, it is for the British people to decide the outcome but European business strongly supports continued British membership of a European Union that takes the necessary reforms to be competitive, outward-looking and continue delivering growth, jobs, peace, security and prosperity for all.”

Crop - Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General, CBI
Carolyn Fairbairn, director general, CBI.

CBI Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn commented: “There is a compelling shared benefit for firms to trade with no barriers inside a market of 500 million people and those crucial economic ties which connect us, creating jobs and investment, cannot be taken for granted.

“Improving the EU to make it more competitive in a global economy would be a real gain for firms of all sizes in the UK and across Europe.

“With clear momentum towards a deal that could benefit all Member States, business calls on Europe’s leaders to make good on their promises of reform and deliver the changes that will secure a prosperous future.

“Most CBI members – though not all – want to stay in a reformed EU and we will consult them once again when a final deal is agreed.”


Markus Kerber, Director-General of BDI, said: “A Brexit would lead to a dead end. The BDI calls on the British Government to promote remaining in the EU. Europe needs a strong and critical partner within the EU. Only a unified Europe will be successful on the global scene. A divided Europe will sink into oblivion. In 2050 not a single European country will remain among the nine biggest economies in the world.”


Marcella Panucci, Director-General of Confindustria, said: “If we think about the global challenges ahead of us, it is clear that no EU Member States can face them alone. Only by securing a strong EU, underpinned by a well-functioning internal market, can we secure the long term prosperity of our countries. While it is for the British people to decide, a Brexit would be a failure for all of us.”


Michel Guilbaud, Director-General of MEDEF, said: “For France and for Europeans, a Brexit would be a major step backwards. The British demands contain some useful elements – on competitiveness and on better regulation. The balance must now be found between strengthening the governance of the Eurozone, and respecting the rights and needs of non-Eurozone countries.”


Christoph Neumayer, Director-General of IV, said: “A Brexit would not only have far reaching consequences for the UK itself, but also for the EU as a whole. The UK is a very important economically liberal Member State.

The remaining signatories to the letter are:

  • Reinhard Gӧhner, Director-General, BDA (Germany)
  • Dagmar Kuchtová, Director-General, SPCR (Czech Republic)
  • Akis Skertsos, Director-General, SEV (Greece)
  • Vitalijs Gavrilovs, President of LDDK (Latvia)
  • Osvaldas Čiukšys, Director-General, LPK (Lithuania)
  • Kevin J. Borg, Director-General, Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry (Malta)
  • Lech Pilawski, Director-General, Polish Confederation Lewiatan, (Poland)
  • António Saraiva, President, CIP (Portugal)
  • Jan Oravec, Member of Presidium, RUZ (Slovakia)
  • Joze Smole, Secretary General, ZDS, (Slovenia)
  • Niek Jan van Kesteren, Director-General, VNO-NCW (The Netherlands)

“One of the key pillars of the UK’s negotiations on its EU membership is a more competitive EU, which will be beneficial for all EU-citizens and for the European economy. The EU has to boost and create jobs and growth, therefore structural reforms and a global approach to economy, business, education and research are essential.”


Pieter Timmermans, CEO of the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium (FEB), said: “The UK has been a member of the EU for more than 40 years, and is one of the most competitive economies in the world. In an increasingly globalised economy, we have to work together to strengthen our economies.”


Jyri Häkämies, Director-General of the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), said: “It is in the interests of the whole EU that its second largest economy remains within it. The EU must give priority to growth and jobs in all its actions, and thus make Europe competitive and attractive again.”


Danny McCoy, CEO of IBEC, said: “For businesses across Europe, it’s vital that the EU takes steps to better compete with the rest of the world and create jobs and economic growth at home. The UK and Irish economies have incredibly strong bonds, but for firms to make the most of this it’s vital that the UK stays in a reformed EU. It would be a major blow if the UK turned its back on the EU at a time when Europe needs to stand together to address very difficult, shared challenges.”


René Winkin, Director of Fedil – Business Federation Luxembourg, said: “A well-functioning European single market is of utmost importance for the economy and European companies. Without compromising on the four freedoms of the single market, future EU reform should concentrate on regulatory simplification and burden reduction in order to strengthen competitiveness and create a sound business environment that will allow European companies and industry to thrive in the global economy.”


Carola Lemne, Director-General of Swedish Enterprise, said: “Competitiveness and free trade are corner stones for European and UK prosperity. The mutual benefits are many. The UK is as important to EU as the EU is to the UK.”

The European business groups call on the EU to reform to boost jobs and growth by improving the functioning of the Single Market; particularly in digital and services, sign more high-quality trade deals and to take a better approach to regulation. While progress has been made, the 21 business organisations want the next European Council to hardwire Europe’s competitive agenda for future prosperity across the Continent.