It seems premature to start writing the history of a campaign on the day it launches, but ConservativeHome deserves a 'hat tip' for the role it has played in the creation of Business for Britain (BfB). Back in December 2011, Paul Goodman explained the need for a "Business for Britain" campaign, and in January of this year, Tim Montgomerie put me in touch with Matthew Elliott, after they had a conversation about his plans for a successor to Business for Sterling. So, thank you, ConservativeHome! Not only do you produce an excellent website, but you also play an important role making things happen behind the scenes.
In the wake of the Prime Minister’s landmark speech, laying out his vision for a fundamentally reformed EU and a renegotiated deal for Britain, the seemingly all-consuming matter of whether the British people should be given a referendum has finally been dealt with. As the North-West Chairman of the 'I Want a Referendum' campaign on the Lisbon Treaty, I know how important this element of David Cameron's speech was. Questions still linger over the referendum commitment from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, but David Cameron’s pledge has allowed the broader debate on what kind of relationship we want with the European Union to take front and centre stage, as it should.
Keeping British business competitive is integral to boosting economic growth. This is why the European debate should be more about economics and less about politics. SMEs in particular are hardest hit by the compliance costs attached to Brussels red tape. My own company, Silver Cross Prams, has enjoyed a revival not just here at home, but also in other booming markets such as China – yet the EU's tendency towards tit-for-tat protectionism means our exporting ability is hampered, and there's little Westminster or Whitehall can do about it.
Ever-closer union and Brussels' desire to erect the EU as a single powerhouse bloc in a multi-polar world is not what businesses across the UK and indeed across Europe have as their foremost concern. It worries us when we see political ideology being prioritised ahead of economic practicality, and the instances of this where the EU is concerned are too numerous to count. And so fundamental reform of how we do business with Brussels needs to be on the agenda at a time when Europe is embarking on discussions for how to proceed even further down the path of integration.
Tellingly, the British Chambers of Commerce recently reported that a resounding majority of companies it surveyed backed renegotiating our current relationship with the EU to allow for powers to flow back to the UK where it would benefit businesses going forward. So the launch of Business for Britain couldn't come at a better time, to represent the vast majority of people in the business community who want a better, fairer and more flexible deal for the UK.
Along with more than 500 other business leaders, I am delighted to have signed up to this new initiative. We're a cross-party campaign – my Co-Chairman, John Mills, is a long-standing Labour supporter and donor – but we are united in pushing for a better deal for Britain. As someone who has spent their career investing in and driving forward great British brands, I want to see Britain not just talk about getting the best deal for business, but actually go for it too. I do hope you'll consider signing up to the campaign, and thank you once again to ConHome for your role in getting us started!