That’s the assessment of Lars Hoelgaard of the Brussels think tank Farm Europe and the former deputy director general of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development.
Speaking before an animal health conference staged in Brussels yesterday (Thursday June 11), Hoelgaard told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “There’s been some scare mongering about [the impact on business] of the UK quitting the EU.
“But it would be wrong to exaggerate the impediments to business.”
‘Wrong to exaggerate the impediments’
Food and drink manufacturers – alongside other British businesses – will still be able to benefit from access to the single market. However, Britain would find itself in a similar position to Norway: it would lack influence and face increased costs, he said.
“While the single market would still be open to the UK, and its food industry, that would be on a take-it or leave-it basis.”
After a decision to quit the union Britain would have “very little influence on legislation and no influence on the decision-making process”, said the former EU boss.
“That loss of influence would inevitably lead to lack of influence in the long-run.”
Prime Minister David Cameron made the promise of an in-out referendum on Britain’s EU referendum a key part of the Conservatives’ election manifesto. The government has pledged to negotiate EU reform ahead of a national vote some time within the next two and a half years.
‘Wrong to exaggerate’
“There’s been some scare mongering about [the impact on business] of the UK quitting the EU. But it would be wrong to exaggerate the impediments to business.”
- Lars Hoelgaard, former Brussels boss
Cameron met other EU leaders – including the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel – yesterday for what one Belgian aide described as “frank and open talks” on plans to reform the union.
Top of Cameron’s reform agenda are: restrictions on entitlements to welfare payments, more powers for national parliaments and an opt out for Britain from closer EU ties.
Cameron told journalists in Brussels: “I am content with the progress made so far but the referendum will happen by the end of 2017.”
Many business organisations believe Britain would be better off within a reformed EU. Organisation voicing support included the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), Confederation of British Business and the manufacturers’ organisation EEF.
Food and drink manufacturers “want to be part of a strong EU,” FDF boss Ian Wright told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
And the Scotch Whisky Association warned recently that exiting the union would hit whisky exports.
Meanwhile, watch out for more reports from the animal health conference – ‘Healthy animals, healthy food, a healthy future’ – organised by the International Federation for Animal Health-Europe – next week on FoodManufacture.co.uk.