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UK employers see risks in alternatives to EU membership

A leading British employers group stepped up its push to keep the country in the EU yesterday, saying the alternatives would hurt trade.

As campaigning intensifies before a referendum on remaining an EU member, the Confederation of British Industry listed concerns.

“While it’s not a uniform view, the majority of firms believe that the ‘pros’ of EU membership outweigh the ‘cons’,” the CBI said in a report. “But they also recognise that, like most institutions, the EU is far from perfect.”

The CBI, which represents 190,000 firms, backs British Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to secure changes to Britain’s relationship with the EU. Cameron has promised a vote by the end of 2017; expectations are it will take place next year.

Campaign group Leave.eu dismissed the CBI’s stance.

“If the CBI wants to stay in a reformed EU, then what will the CBI do if none of the reforms are achieved? It’s crystal clear to everyone that Cameron will not achieve any reforms,” said Richard Tice, one of Leave.eu’s business ambassadors.

A Norway-style arrangement would mean Britain still had to follow the bloc’s rules, including those allowing workers from EU countries to come to the country, something many British critics of the EU object to.

A special EU-Britain trade deal – another idea supported by British opponents of EU membership – would put trade at risk and reduce Britain’s influence over its terms, the CBI said.

A CBI survey carried out in 2013 found 80 per cent of its members supported staying in a reformed EU.

A newly-launched group campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU said the report “blows a huge hole” in the arguments of rival campaigners.

“The CBI’s report undermines their extreme view that the United Kingdom has nothing to lose by leaving Europe,” the executive director of Britain Stronger in Europe, Will Straw, said in a statement.

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