Election 2015

CBI bosses back Britain’s EU membership

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Tony Blair urged voters to 'think of the chaos' produced by the possibility of the UK quitting the EU
Tony Blair urged voters to 'think of the chaos' produced by the possibility of the UK quitting the EU

Related tags Eu membership United kingdom Prime minister of the united kingdom Eu

Business bosses’ group the Confederation of British Industry has highlighted the key importance of EU membership to the UK economy, after former prime minister Tony Blair slammed David Cameron's pledge to hold a referendum on EU membership.

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

Related topics Dairy Dairy-based ingredients

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1 comment

No surprises

Posted by IndianaFlynn,

So a body which received millions in funding from the EU supports the EU. No news there then.
A former PM whose tack reocrd on EU issues is nothing short of woeful tells us there'd be chaos.......... more chaos than had we joined the Euro as he would have liked?
Finally a political party on the verge of extinction says that we'll have a referendum on the back of any significant treaty change. Clearly they forget that othe parties that got into power promised the same thing and yet we still ended up signing the Lisbon treaty without any consultation or referendum. I'd like to think the wider electorate aren't that gullible but I suppose the GE in May will tell its own story.

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