Matthew Elliott is Chief Executive of Business for Britain.
Ever since the PM delivered his landmark Bloomberg speech on
the EU, there has been substantial interest and debate about what the business
community in Britain thinks about the issue. Understandably, many people are
looking to business people to assess what the impact of Britain’s membership of
the EU has been on jobs, trade and growth, and how they would be personally affected
by bringing back powers from the EU.
At Business for
Britain, we now boast over 750 business leaders supporting our call for a
change in Britain’s membership of the EU. We have started the process of consulting
these supporters, as well as the wider business community, to produce what we
feel will be the most comprehensive analysis of business opinion on our
relationship with Brussels.
This document is not without precedent. In the late 1990s,
when the media were portraying the business community as being strongly supportive
of the Euro, Business for Sterling produced research that showed (a) that
Business for Sterling represented vast swathes of business people in the UK opposed
to joining the single currency; and (b) the members of business organisations
such as the CBI were split on Euro membership.
From my own discussions about Business for Britain and from existing
surveys – for example this
one by the British Chambers of Commerce, or a poll of City of London
professionals by the
Evening Standard today that shows a majority supported the “Norwegian
option” of EU membership – I am confident that our consultations will demonstrate
that businessmen (a) back reform of the EU to make it more competitive; (b)
want a better deal for Britain in the EU; and (c) back an EU referendum to show
that the Government is serious.
Since our launch, we have been speaking to people from all
sectors about the different models currently available when it comes to a
relationship with the EU. Last year the leading think-tank Open Europe produced
a great analysis of these various options in a paper called Trading
Places, which is well worth reading to get an idea of how other
countries currently operate. I have been very interested to see how people
decide the sort of relationship they think would be best for the UK, with many
finding the models that offer the least regulation from Brussels, but the
maximum access to the Single Market as the most preferable.
For my part, I think that, as the world’s sixth largest
economy and one of, if not the most, attractive destinations for foreign direct
investment in Europe, Britain is perfectly positioned to negotiate its own
deal. We don’t need to borrow an off-the-peg solution. Indeed, Brussels has
ably demonstrated that the one-size-fits-all approach to policy implementation
rarely succeeds. The EU’s moves towards greater fiscal and banking union means
that the entire architecture of the EU is likely to change, and this gives
David Cameron a very powerful hand when he begins the process of getting
Britain this better deal and making the EU more competitive.
The full Business for Britain analysis will be published in the
autumn to influence the key European Council meeting at the end of the year, at
which the process of Treaty change could well begin. For now, it is critical
that all business people interested in this subject join Business for Britain and
give us their thoughts on where our relationship could go.