The CBI, Britain’s leading business organisation, today published a report suggesting that Britain’s continuing EU membership is critical to strengthening its role in the world economy and competing with emerging markets.
The report calls for significant reforms to the Single Market but ultimately concludes that there is no viable alternative to full membership.
CBI director-general John Cridland said that it was “a great British success story” worth an annual average of £3,000 to every household in the country.
He said: “We all need to know where Britain’s future lies in a changing global economy. We have looked beyond the political rhetoric to examine the pros and cons of EU membership and British business is unequivocal; the single market is fundamental to our future.
“But the EU isn’t perfect and there is a growing unease about the creeping extension of EU authority. Europe has to become more open, competitive and outward looking if we are to grow and create opportunities and jobs for all our citizens.
The report highlights what it claims is the EU’s role in supporting UK access to global markets with 30 free trade agreements, such as that recently signed with Canada, giving UK companies freer access to markets worth £24tn. The EU is also in ongoing negotiations for similar deals with the US and Japan.
The report suggests deals like these should be a key ongoing focus for a reformed EU. It also calls for a genuine single market for services, a moratorium on laws which could be decided at a national level and improvements in the way new regulations are assessed – to reduce the burden on SMEs in particular.
Mike Kapur, founder of Signum Corporate Communications Ltd and chairman of the
CBI’s Enterprise Forum, said: “SME members at the CBI have overwhelmingly expressed their view that the UK must have a strong voice when it comes to the rules of world trade. A key component of this is the importance of the UK’s ability to influence in, and with, the EU.
“Every day, SMEs wake up wishing they had greater influence over shaping the rules that govern their business with customers and suppliers.
“The EU will remain a significant source of trade and aspiration for our current and future SME exporters – so SMEs want greater influence over the rules of trade in that market.”
The report concludes that there is no realistic alternative to the UK’s EU membership with all of the benefits but none of the costs.
Cridland continued: “The UK could survive outside the EU, but none of the alternatives offer a better deal.
“We can’t end up on the fringes of the world’s largest trading bloc, following and paying for all the rules, but setting none.
“The UK must stay in to reform the EU – it is in the UK’s national interest and will create jobs and opportunities at home and in Europe.”
The CBI Annual Conference takes place today in London. View a live stream of proceedings.
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