Re-negotiate the UK's position in Europe, FPB urges

Thursday 24 January 2013

Leaving the European Union (EU) would be bad for the UK economy, a leading business lobby group has claimed.

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) responded to Prime Minister David Cameron's speech on Europe by urging against a total exit from the Single Market.

Alex Jackman, head of policy at the forum, said the organisation does not support an in/out referendum, simply because "it will not give anything like a clear mandate".

"Even an overwhelming 'in' wouldn't silence the doubters, nor an overwhelming 'out' lead to exit, given the political flip-flopping over this issue of recent years," he stated.

"And in all probability, there wouldn't be a significant majority one way or the other."

Mr Jackman called for the government to re-negotiate the terms of its union membership, in order to prevent anti-EU sentiment from growing.

"Institutions that are already seen as undemocratic will grow to become tyrannical in the views of many," he stated.

"The ever spiralling central budgets will create even louder voices than present. So the issue must be tackled."

In Mr Jackman's view, this government - and those to come - should be given the mandate to renegotiate terms and to maintain an opt out from ever closer integration.

He said that EU budgets must be more closely monitored.

"If the European Commission wants greater funds from countries, it should first have proven the case that money cannot be saved from within," the FPB policy chief added.

"Businesses will tell you there are plenty of pointless policy exercises that could be culled if savings were being sought."

Mr Jackman said that pinch points for small businesses "do differ".

He claimed it is "a genuine bugbear" for those enterprises in communities that have nothing to do with exporting and wonder what right the EU has to dictate how long their employees should be paid for sick leave, or how they should sit at work.

"But there is the other demographic for who the common market has helped enormously in growing their businesses overseas. Like it or not, most businesses export within Europe as their first step," Mr Jackman noted.

"The truth is that our laws are now so intertwined with European legislation it is very hard for anyone to understand whether we should pull out, let alone how we would go about doing so."

Posted by Dan Smith