Most bosses thought their businesses would be better off inside the EU, said CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall, while acknowledging the decision on holding a referendum was one for the government and voters.
“A significant majority of businesses are clear that they want to stay in a reformed EU,” said Hall. “The EU opens up the world’s largest single market of 500M consumers to UK businesses, which drives investment, growth and jobs here.”
‘Opens up the world’s largest single market’
But the CBI wanted the EU to adopt an ambitious, achievable reform agenda. “The EU must do more of what it is good at, like signing trade deals and completing the single market, while interfering less in areas where it doesn’t add value, like lifestyle issues,” said Hall.
“Completing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership alone could be worth at least 120bn euros a year, giving UK businesses five more potential customers in the US for each one at home.”
Representing 190,000 businesses, CBI members employ nearly 7M people, or about one third of the private sector-employed workforce.
The CBI’s comments followed Blair’s attack yesterday (April 7) on Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise to hold a referendum. In a rare intervention in UK domestic politics, the former prime minister also gave current Labour leader Ed Miliband “100% backing” in his bid to move into No 10 Downing Street after the general election on May 7. Speaking in his old Sedgefield constituency in County Durham, Blair warned a referendum would bring severe disruption to business.
David Cameron replies
“Tony Blair is wrong. What I’m doing is saying we should put the people of the UK first and give them a chance [to vote on the UK’s continued EU membership].”
‘Think of the chaos’
“Think of the chaos produced by the possibility – never mind the reality of Britain actually quitting Europe,” he said.
“Should we go the way of exit, there would be the most intense period of business uncertainty, reconsideration and instability of options since the war.”
But Cameron rejected Blair’s intervention. “Tony Blair is wrong,” Cameron told BBC News. “What I’m doing is saying we should put the people of the UK first and give them a chance [to vote on the UK’s continued EU membership].”
A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The Liberal Democrats will hold an in/out referendum when there is next any treaty change involving a material transfer of sovereignty from the UK to the EU.
“Liberal Democrats will campaign for the UK to remain in the EU when that referendum comes.”
The UK Independence Party (UKIP) has long campaigned to quit the EU.
Meanwhile, the EU remained the UK’s most important market for exports of food and non-alcoholic drinks, according to the latest figures from the Food and Drink Federation. Total food and non alcoholic drinks exports have doubled in the past decade to reach £12.8bn last year.
Dairy exports reached a record high of £1.4bn, driven mainly by a surge in cheese sales.
What the parties promise
- Conservatives: In, out referendum on the UK's EU membership
- Liberal Democrats: In, out referendum at the next big treaty change and campaigning to retain membership
- Labour: Continued EU membership
- UKIP: Quitting the EU