Next month the nation decides the critical question of the UK’s membership of the EU. EEF CEO, Terry Scuoler says the best interests of UK manufacturers will be served by voting to stay.
The question at the heart of the vote is simple, yet fundamentally important: how should the UK engage with the rest of the world, and are we better off economically in or out?
I believe there are two critical reasons why it is imperative the UK remains a member of the EU:
We are fortunate not to have lived in an era defined by European rivalry, division and conflict but, one of relative peace, economic prosperity, political security and social stability; much of which is clearly linked to greater co-operation among the nations of the European Union.
Were we to leave the EU now, at a time when the continent faces greater challenges than perhaps at any time since its creation, particularly from an aggressive Russia, a volatile Middle East and a turbulent world economy, we would be risking further instability and uncertainty.
The EU is the biggest single market of its kind in the world with a population of 500 million people. Access to that market is vital for our manufacturers, large and small.
Independent research shows that more than 80% of EEF members believe the biggest advantage of EU membership is in providing a base for exporting. Over half of British chemical and pharmaceutical exports – worth some £30bn annually – go to the EU.
- Life science leaders say UK is better off in a reformed EU
- Almost 60% of UK mid-market manufacturers back staying in the EU
- EEF: EU ‘Out’ campaign offers only abyss of uncertainty and risk
Almost 90% of British SMEs that export do so to the EU, and almost half of our total trade is with the EU.
In addition, almost a fifth of manufacturers benefit from EU support for innovation. Indeed, the UK receives on average about 15% of the total innovation pot, making us one of the biggest beneficiary nations. Just think how many high quality jobs this supports.
The UK is also the leading destination for Foreign Direct Investment into the EU, with the Japanese Government on record as saying the UK’s membership of the EU has led to 1,300 Japanese companies investing here. Indeed, half of all European-headquartered, non-EU companies are now based in this country.
If we were to leave, it’s impossible to predict whether this attractiveness will remain. It may, or it may not.
The facts and benefits of being in the EU appear to be overwhelmingly positive. Not only that, membership offers organisations like EEF opportunities to influence the way the EU operates.
I have worked in many forums in Europe and know that operating with diligence and cooperation can bring about real change. The job of our elected politicians is to commit themselves to using their power and influence to bring about positive change, rather than make excuses about the limitations imposed by Brussels, which can sometimes be blamed for all manner of woes.
Those who would have us vote ‘Leave’ have accused those of us arguing to remain of conducting ‘Project Fear’. But it is not ‘Project Fear’ but ‘Project Reality’.
Independent research carried out for EEF shows that almost two thirds of manufacturers want to stay in and only 5% want to leave. In taking this view they, and EEF, are not looking at the EU through rose-tinted spectacles.
We and they are very aware of the EU’s bureaucratic shortcomings but, on balance, have clearly decided that remaining is the right way forward for British manufacturers, and for the UK as a whole.