Stronger United-Stronger UK@United Europe: Remain & Transform!

British Industry and Commerce: Mixed Trade-offs

It would be wrong of course to assume that all British businesses engaged in industry and commerce profit from the European single market. Some of them with a primarily domestic orientation could benefit from less competition from European companies in the same field. Others export mainly to non-European markets and see little benefit in the EU. The consensus however is that overall, a great majority of British businesses and entrepreneurs who engage in manufacturing and trade relations with partners on the Old Continent derive significant benefits from the European single market.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) – the UK's most effective and influential business organization speaking on behalf of 190,000 businesses of all sizes and sectors that together employ nearly 7 million people, about one third of the private sector employee workforce - is unambiguous on the subject. Benefits for its members of belonging to the European Union include more customers for their business and more jobs at home; one set of rules not 28, thus cutting costs for business; more international investment in the UK economy creating more jobs; access to the skills businesses need to grow; opening up a third of the worlds markets for trade; and lower prices and more choice for customers. At the same time the CBI believes the European Union and the single market are works in progress in need of significant improvements - for example reducing and simplifying rules so business can grow; breaking down barriers to European trading services; supporting online businesses; making sure the European Union works for all countries; keeping spending under control and focus on jobs and growth; and doing more to open up global markets.


Overall however the CBI has strongly endorsed the UK's continuing membership in the European Union: Whilst it’s not a uniform view, the majority of firms believe that the ‘pros’ of EU membership outweigh the ‘cons’. But they also recognise that – like most institutions – the EU is far from perfect. CBI sums up its position by stating that:

“Whilst membership of the European Union has its downsides, the disadvantages are significantly outweighed by the benefits we get in return. And the Prime Minister’s push for reform gives a window of opportunity to maximise those benefits – before the public chooses the future course for the UK… Alternative arrangements to full membership either have serious downsides or are surrounded by huge uncertainty. That’s why the majority of business want to remain in a reformed EU.”

The CBI website discusses in detail the various arguments outlined above for Britain remaining in the EU and provides a great range of testimonies of CBI members active in industry and trade who testify on how the single European market and the European Union have helped them build their businesses and ensure they thrived and expanded. It also provides a number of relevant case studies making for fascinating reading about real-life entrepreneurs whose efforts were rewarded in large part because of their ability to access a market of 500 million customers with one common set of rules and with funding and growth opportunities unequalled in any other global markets.

Another important association of UK entrepreneurs, businesses and management leaders that is making a strong case for the UK’s continued membership in the EU is Business for New Europe (BfNE) - an independent coalition of business leaders advocating a positive case for reform in Europe, whose Advisory Council includes Chairmen and CEOs of FTSE100 companies with expertise in foreign and economic policy. Business for New Europe advocates five key reasons why we should continue to remain in the EU:

  1. an economic case: the single market lets British companies sell their products freely the world's largest market;
  2. an international trade case: as a member of the EU Britain can get better free-trade deals with other countries then we could alone;
  3. a security and strength case: international problems require international responses and Britain would faces challenges more effectively by working with our European allies;
  4. a social case: people benefit from EU action in dozens of commonplace ways and its rules keep us safe and secure at work, when we travel or study, as well as in retirement;
  5. an engagement and reform case: the EU has the potential to be even better for businesses than it is now; the answer is not special pleading but engagement with delivery of results for business active in Europe.

BfNE also makes the case that Britain will be worse off out. EU membership makes everyone richer and safer and there is no alternative to EU membership that provides all of these benefits. Business for New Europe sums up its approach by stating that:

“We campaign for Britain to retain and enhance the economic benefits it derives from EU membership. We also call for improvements in the way the EU works. Leaving the EU would damage our economy, make it harder for British business to compete internationally, and harm investment, growth and jobs. It would significantly weaken Britain’s ability to shape policies in its most important export market, the Single Market, and globally in areas such as trade, climate change and international relations. BNE supports Britain’s active membership of the EU and opposes withdrawal to the margins. We support a prosperous, free-market Europe, able to compete in a globalised world and deliver for its people.” 

The fact that two such widely respected organisations of British industry and trade such as the CBI and Business for New Europe have taken such a strong and vigorous position in favor of Britain's continuing membership in a reformed European Union reflects the reality that the British economy it is inextricably interlinked with the those of our European partners and cannot be easily separated from them without causing irreversible damage being caused to significant numbers of businesses, entrepreneurs, employers, and employees across our country. Both these institutions put forward a compelling case for Britain remaining in the EU and for the need to reform the institutions of the European Union so as to make it more effective, more accountable, more democratic for the benefit of its citizens and of the businesses that allow them to live a prosperous an dynamic life across the European continent.