Britain’s manufacturers are calling for a referendum on EU membership to take place at the earliest opportunity.
The plea was made by EEF, ahead of the expected publication of a Referendum Bill as part of the Queen’s Speech this week.
EEF believes that now a referendum is certain to happen, it is not in the UK’s long-term interest to wait until 2017. Instead, it should take place in either May or Autumn of 2016.
EEF is also calling on the Prime Minister to campaign positively for the UK to remain a leading member of the EU, emphasising the many benefits of continued membership alongside a pledge to work for reform with like-minded partners.
Terry Scuoler, EEF CEO said: “Now a referendum is going to take place, we need to get on with the negotiations and hold the referendum as soon as possible. Business and investors hate uncertainty and the longer this drags on the more damaging it will be.
“It is good to see the Prime Minister forging ahead with an early meeting of his counterparts across the EU to make Britain’s case and Brussels is clearly signalling its willingness to engage.
“But, having put the recovery on a sound footing, we simply cannot afford to prevaricate on an issue of such importance for the future of our nation.
“Having trailed this since early 2013 the Government must surely have a clear idea of its proposed areas for negotiation and it must now be a priority to get on with it.”
Calling on the Prime Minister to lead a positive Government campaign for the UK to remain a leading and reforming member of the EU, Scuoler added: “British manufacturers remain overwhelmingly of the view that our economic wellbeing is linked to the EU and we must stay in membership.
“It makes no sense to disengage from our major market where we would still face all the costs of compliance and enjoy none of the influence. We can achieve reform by being an active and leading member from within.”
EEF research shows that 85% of UK manufacturers would vote to stay in the EU – in contrast, just 7% would vote to pull out. This rises to 90% amongst manufacturers with over 250 employees, where not a single company would vote to come out.
EEF currently holds the Chair of CEEMET, the representative body for manufacturing in Europe. The organisation represents some 250,000 companies across Europe, employing some 30 million people.