Opinion: Europe is good for business

On Monday a group of business leaders from across the country gathered to  launch a manifesto for Europe the main thrust of which said that Europe  was good for UK businesses. It was a great experience to be with a group of people who were all describing unique personal reasons related  to their own companies as to why Britain should remain in the EU.

It is often thought that it is just large businesses trading across  borders that do well out of EU membership. But at the launch event I  met with many small business leaders who have the EU somewhere in their  supply chain, or who deal directly with European customers, or European  companies, or small businesses that provide components to larger firms  that are reliant on our EU membership for international trade.

The manifesto focuses around 5 main points with a common theme amongst  them; European membership is good for British interests and we can  achieve more if we get stuck in and make our voice heard, you can only  make a difference in Europe by being a part of it. The five points are:

1)      Complete the single market. This is the EU’s biggest success, but there are  still areas such as digital, energy, transport and services (both  financial and non) which Britain has a distinct advantage in, but which  are not fully open. It is estimated that completing the single market  could add 7.1% to GDP within 10 years.

2)      Sign free trade agreements with US and Japan. US, Japan and EU account for  37% of world trade and signing free trade agreements is estimated to  benefit the UK by £8.3bn for the US agreement and £13.3bn for Japan.

3)      Promote a Europe of Enterprise. The cost of regulations hit small companies the most, Europe needs to do more for small businesses by reducing the  regulatory burden and providing access to finance, especially through  venture capital.

4)      Enhance the City. The City has both benefited from the EU and is a huge asset  for it. We need to ensure there are moves towards a single market for  financial services with less reliance on banks and more use of capital  markets.

5)      Streamline the EU. Powers should only be with Europe where there is a clear case  for international decision making, regulations need to be simplified to  boost growth and the EU needs to stop wasting money on two seats of  Parliament.

It is good that a  politically neutral group has come together in support of the EU and the voice from business leaders is a lot more important to be heard than  politicians as people can then see the direct relation that the  companies they work for has with the European Union.

The EU does best in people’s minds when it is seen to be delivering. At the moment this means it needs to deliver on growth, on jobs and to show  economic strength. The EU needs to be leading on this and not be part of the problem. At the same time the only way to drive through changes is  not by blackmailing and threatening to leave, but to argue for change  within the EU and I am pleased to see our business leaders standing up  to make this case.

The Business for New Europe document “A Europe that Works” can be found here (pdf).

* Richard Davis is a prospective Member of the European Parliament for London. His website is here.

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  • Europe will be good for business when we out of Europe Costs us far far too much money ways and freedom ways we have example in europe where democracy over ruled and Brussels an germany dictate who should be in which posts an control in other countries get out and we still trade with an there are other markets too

  • A Social Liberal 4th Jul '13 - 10:41pm

    As far those on here who are liberally minded are concerned, I think you are preaching to the converted

  • Item 5 is exactly right. LDs have got into a terrible muddle by just cheerleading for anything EU without stopping to think that it should only have powers best handled at an international level – and also that even then it must be subject to effective democratic control. It has been a big mistake to ignore the democratic deficit.

    Item 2 needs more study. The background work for the proposed EU-USA treaty has established that overall tariff barriers between the two parties are low. They could presumably be negotiated lower without the full dress treaty that is proposed but will in any case not yield huge gains as is explicitly acknowledged. The problem is that most of the supposed gain is to come from the removal of ‘non tariff barriers’ by which they mean regulations that differ across the Atlantic with the chosen solution being to adopt the lowest standard.

    In short it is a neoliberal plan to gut any sort of regulation. It is true that regulations can be and sometimes are used as backdoor barriers to trade but mostly they aren’t. This treaty will not make that distinction. Instead it will open the door to, for instance, Monsanto and their GM crops without further debate allowed. And since GM advocates in the US have managed to block even labelling food that contains GM ingredients that blocking of labelling could happen here too. While this is a worst case scenario no treaty should be agreed that disenfranchises democratic decision making.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Jul '13 - 1:40am

    Good article, no scaremongering. The single market definitely needs to be completed in my view, in financial services because of all the different regulatory and tax regimes our market is pretty much restricted to the UK, and I wouldn’t like to see this forever.

    After weighing up the risk and reward for Europe I definitely think we need more integration, the expansion is also good for business but it needs to be done on a slow basis that is acceptable for the people and different cultures.

  • There needs to be an element of “scaremongering”. Does anyone seriously think that the renaissance of the motor industry in Britain – very largely of course based on companies from outside the EU – is explained by the UK market alone and would persist just as enthusiastically if the UK was excluded from the EU?

    Some of these motor manufacturers are already postponing further investment here because of the doubt now surrounding UK’s long term EU membership.

    I very much welcome the new initiative by business people. Their suggested reforms and improvements are also welcome and I hope at least some of them can be achieved but the basic question for me is whether the UK should stay in the EU even if reforms achieved fall short of what we would like to see. My answer is an unequivocal yes. It is now crucial for those who are positive about Europe to make their voice heard.

  • Good article and linked report, I do agree with GF with the points he makes. The LibDems should be concerned about the proposed EU-US trade treaty, given what has been leaked todate about it’s proposed contents and the extent to which US business is lobbying the EU. Whilst the detailed negotiations should be held in private, there is no reason why the proposals for consideration shouldn’t be published and available for public scrutiny and debate.

  • GF is of course wholly wrong. Lib Dems have never acted as EU cheerleaders. We have always been a critical friend and you only have to read some of Nick’s speeches to see this.

    What we face now is something else.

    1. Our press, especially but not exclusively, the Murdoch press want us out of the EU precisely because they cannot have the free reign they want in the single market.
    2. The press highlight every perceived EU failing and never give the EU any credit.
    3. The press is determined that we shall leave the EU because that’s what they want and bugger the consequences
    4. The press happily foster the myth that EU decisions are made by faceless bureaucrats, when in fact they are made by ministers from national governments and the European Parliament.

    Someone has to give the lie to all this relentless anti EU propoganda. The Conservatives can’t do it, because they are split asunder on the issue. Labour won’t do it and never has. The next European Parliamentary elections will be fought by a swathe of anti EU parties and the only pro EU party is us, albeit recognising the need for fundamental changes. Being anti EU is the surest way to lose the seats we hold, because we’ll be fighting for a share of a fixed market with almost every other party in the UK.

    40% of the electorate want to remain in the EU NOW, with all this anti EU stuff flying about. That’s a whole lot more people than usually vote for us. We must fight the election next May, determined to stay in, committed to fundamental reforms within the EU and a referendum on treaty changes but pro EU is a must, because our voters and many outside our party want to stay in and they have no-one else to stand up for them.

  • I 100% endorse Mickft’s comments. We Lib Dems must shed all the reticence about supporting the EU sadly demonstrated in every previous Euro election. The many who realise the dangers of UK exit need and want a champion – we must be it. Their numbers greatly exceed any likely proportion of the total vote we are likely to receive just because we are Lib Dems – especially if we try to prevaricate and be all things to all men.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Jul '13 - 9:13pm

    I hope our European parliamentary election campaign will focus on European issues. But whether we are pro or anti EU is a domestic issue, not a European issue. European issues are things like the CAP, trade policy, consmuer protection, civil liberties etc — matters that are discussed by MEPs making decisions taht affect the

  • Alex Macfie 6th Jul '13 - 9:22pm

    … decisions that affect the EU as a whole. We need to fight the European election on our specifically liberal vision for the EU, focusing on the actual laws that MEPs help make and how we, as liberals, would shape them in a liberal fashion. We don’t fight UK parliamentary elections on a platform of support for the Westminster parliamentary model and for UK government institutions, so it does not make sense to fight EU elections that way.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Jul '13 - 9:32pm

    @mickft: Unfortunately we do sometimes sound too much like Euro-apologists rather than Euro-reformers. One example is our campaigning on the European Arrest Warrant, which, although it has put serious criminals behind bars, has also led to serious injustices. I know that our MEPs have called for reform, but the way we campaign in support for the EAW framework makes it sound like it’s all fine and dandy, without considering how to prevent the very real injustices that we would be roundly condemning if they were happening as a result of UK domestic judicial policy, or extradition arrangements with a non-EU country. Just for the avoidance of doubt, I support an EU-wide arrest warrant system, but its operation has to be consistent with the principles of natural justice, which at the moment it sometimes is not. And this is an example of how we should fight EU elections on liberal principles: proclaim our support for specific liberal reforms of the EAW.

  • Steve Comer 9th Jul '13 - 10:05am

    I agree with the comments of ‘mickft’ we have to to be the natural party for pro-Europeans in the UK. We also need to translate ‘subsidiarity’ into English. Too much of the debate on ‘sovereignty’ stops at the Brussels/Westminster level. For Liberals our support for the EU is consistent with our demand for more devolution or power to localities. Its about levels of responsibility.
    So if we’re talking at international trade agreement, then that needs to be done at EU level, as does any decision on a level playing fields in a single market (eg. the latest ruling on mobile ‘phone tariffs). Yet decisions on issues like local public transport should be made at local level, not in Westminster as they are too often today. And why the hell do we need a Secretary of State for Education to tell teachers what to teach?
    We should be making the case for a peoples Europe, with more openness and democracy in EU decision making, as against the Tories who want an EU based on ‘inter-governmentalism’ (mainly horse trading between Ministers in secret!).

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