It is certainly true that Brussels can be unfathomable to UK companies, and that all too often we seem to be on the receiving end of new directives and regulations rather than being engaged in the process of drawing them up.The more sceptical of Europe Britons have become, the more our companies as well as our government seem to have withdrawn from trying to understand, let alone shape, what happens there – or perhaps we are just listened to less. To companies from outside Europe, the process of navigating through the Brussels regulatory, legal and political jungle can seem even more daunting. Yet accessing this market of more than 500 million relatively well-off people is clearly a priority for companies from the UK and from around the globe. Europe is far too important to be ignored. Of course the best way for UK firms to be able to succeed in the European Union is if they, and the British Government, have a seat at the table when it comes to formulating new rules and regulations. Withdrawal from Europe will naturally weaken or destroy our ability to influence what happens there. Yet if we continue to want to trade there, and even keep some sort of semi-detached relationship to allow that to happen easily, we will be subject to European rules anyway. This plainly undermines the ability of UK companies to compete with their European counterparts. The other prerequisite for success for UK plc is to have a stable environment which allows for long-term investment decisions to be made by British firms, and which allows foreign investment in the UK. The European policy of the party which seems most likely to be part of the next government appears to be designed to subject us to two years of uncertainty as we prepare for a referendum on our membership of the EU. But this is not just a Tory issue: none of the British political parties seem to be enthusiastic about engaging positively with the EU. This is daft. Read more about Britain’s role in Europe:
- EU referendum debate: Both sides need strong case to win over SMEs
- Will UKIP do anything to help small businesses?
- Cutting EU red tape has saved British businesses more than £200m this year
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