Quitting EU is manufacturers’ ‘biggest threat’

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Eu membership, United kingdom, European union

The prospect of leaving the EU is 'the biggest threat' facing manufacturers
The prospect of leaving the EU is 'the biggest threat' facing manufacturers
Quitting the EU is “the biggest threat” facing manufacturers, warned the manufacturing organisation EEF, as business leaders and analysts highlighted the key importance of EU membership.

Commenting on the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to hold an in-out referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017, EEF boss Terry Scuoler said: “The biggest threat to our long-­term economic well­being remains the prospect of leaving the EU.”

The new government should move quickly to promote the strong and positive case for Britain’s continued membership – particularly as Prime Minister David Cameron may be under pressure to call a referendum as soon as possible, possibly as early as next year, said Scuoler.

‘Any drift or dithering’

“Any drift or dithering on this issue will mean uncertainty for British businesses, which would be very unhelpful for the long-term prospects of the economy.”

Clive Black, head of research at City analyst Shore Capital, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the debate about the UK’s EU membership and the impact of an in-out referendum will become increasingly dominant.

“There will be uncertainty surrounding the pending EU referendum and what that means for the economy, the value of sterling and monetary policy,”​ said Black. “Indeed, for the agriculture and primary production industries, the future of Britain in the EU is a quite enormous issue where industry leaders and policy makers need to start focusing their minds.”

Wished to retain EU membership

‘Drift or dithering’

“Any drift or dithering on this issue will mean uncertainty for British businesses, which would be very unhelpful for the long-term prospects of the economy.”

  • Terry Scuoler, EEF

Black suspected most businesses wished to retain EU membership, “perhaps with reform”.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) advised lessons should be learned from the Scottish Independence referendum in terms of communicating pro-EU membership messages “clearly and early”.

“I’m fairly ambitious we can get​ [EU] reform,”​ the CBI’s director general John Cridland told the BBC Radio 4’s Today ​programme this morning (May 11). “We want to see more of what Europe does well, like free trade, and less intervention in lifestyle regulations – particularly in the workplace.”

“The majority of businesses want to stay in a reformed EU which opens up the world’s largest market of 500M consumers,”​ he said previously in a post-election statement.

‘World’s largest market of 500M’ 

But Cridland cautioned against overly restrictive controls on migrant workers. “Most businesses want Polish and Eastern European engineers to keep their machines working,”​ he told the Today ​programme. “They don’t want obstacles to the free movement of labour, because that would be bad for business.”

Meanwhile, Scuoler highlighted the role of new business secretary Sajid Javid. “The new secretary of state will also play an important role in any EU negotiations and in the forthcoming referendum,”​ said Scuoler.

“I am sure he understands that the vast majority of businesses he will now be representing in government want Britain to remain at the heart of a reformed Europe.”

  • Additional reporting by Rod Addy and Nicholas Robinson.

Other referendum views:

Liz Cameron​, chief executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce: “Our economy remains vulnerable to external shocks, such as the continuing Greek bailout saga and a slowdown in a number of our international target markets. What we don't need is extended uncertainty over our future membership of the European Union. This market is worth £12.9bn to Scotland's exporters and the European question needs to be settled quickly and decisively.”

Lise Madsen​, md, Honeyrose Bakery: “The referendum will cause lots of uncertainty and uncertainty is never good. I am not saying it’s a good thing to be or not to be in the EU, but it will cause lots of uncertainty for the next two years ​[in the run-up] and that’s going to affect business.”

Duncan Swift​, partner and head of food advisory group, Moore Stephens: “This will not be helpful – there will be uncertainty over inward investment and exports.

Julian Wild, ​partner, law firm Rollits: “Mr Cameron has some hard bargaining ahead of the EU referendum. While he is unlikely to win major concessions, he is now negotiating from a position of power.”

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