Phil Bennion MEP writes: Manufacturers say Britain must stay in the EU

 EU flag - Some rights reserved by European ParliamentOn Monday, the UK’s manufacturing sector gave us a clear message. In Europe, in work. In a landmark report by the EEF, a trade association representing 6000 companies, manufacturers emphasised the importance of being part of the EU for their exports and business plans. 85% of firms surveyed would vote to remain in the EU.  One third said that they would be less likely to increase investment in Britain if we were to leave the EU.

Politicians across the political spectrum like to talk about rebalancing the economy, creating jobs and rebuilding Britain’s industrial base. But few acknowledge the significance of EU membership for our manufacturing sector; in attracting inward investment, fostering innovation and gaining tariff-free access to the single market and beyond. In fact, UKIP stated in their 2010 manifesto that they would create one million new manufacturing jobs by – you guessed it – pulling out of the EU.  The truth is that only the Liberal Democrats, as the unambiguous party of “In“, are sticking up for British jobs and a thriving, outward-looking manufacturing sector.

Indeed, the overall conclusions of the report were almost entirely in line with the Lib Dems’ approach to Europe. Rather than retreating to the margins or alienating our allies by demanding unilateral opt outs,  manufacturers feel the UK should be taking the lead in reforming the EU as a whole. Expanding the single market, completing free trade deals with the US, India and Japan, increasing innovation spending, all of these are moves that could generate billions of pounds of growth and create tens of thousands of jobs. And all are goals which the Liberal Democrats, both in Westminster and Brussels, are working hard to achieve, for example by delivering a £60 billion EU research package for universities and innovative companies to support jobs in science and manufacturing

Charles KennedyIn my own region, the West Midlands, manufacturing employs 290,000 people, or 11.2% of the work force. Major firms like Jaguar Land Rover, which support thousands of jobs in the wider economy, have stressed to me the importance of the EU both for their exports to the world and the single market. And they want us to focus on creating more jobs, for example by completing negotiations over a transatlantic trade deal that could double British car exports to the US.

As we near the 2014 European elections, we need to ensure that businesses, large and small and across whole of the UK, make their voices heard over the hysterical cries of the xenophobic right. We have to spell out how serious the consequences would be for jobs and growth if Britain were to leave the EU, and the huge opportunities that are there to be seized if we remain. As Charles Kennedy put it so memorably at Liberal Democrat conference last month:

You can forget the Tories, you can forget Labour. If the voice of rational pro-Europeanism is going to be heard, there’s only one place it can come from: Us.

* Phil Bennion is the Chair of the Party's Federal International Relations Committee and former MEP for the West Midlands.

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in News.


  • EFTA and EEA .

    No reason we would lose the European market.

  • “No reason we would lose the European market.”

    This is not true. If we are not in the EU we can not have the benefits of being the EU. We watched our manufacturing collapse in the sixties and seventies because we were ruled by those too stupid to see the advantages of membership until it was too late and we’ve spend decades building industries like car and motorcycle production back up again. It would be absolutely insane to throw them away to suit the prejudice of those who hate Europe.

  • @Chris = That’s the first time I’ve heard anyone suggest our problems in the 60s n 70s where to do with not being in the EU, whatever that was back then, hmmmmm………

    *and following all the EU rules without having any say over them*

    1. It’s a lie we would have to follow all EU rules, a pretty silly lie when you think about it.
    2. Norway has plenty of say in EU rules, plenty of sources and articles out there explaining how.

    I don’t really understand how you think a net importer would be in a weak position, nor do I think anyone here understand what the EFTA and EEA is and how it applies to trade, sure UKIPS “pull out now” position is pretty stupid, but there are plenty of mechanisms that allow an orderly withdraw, I don’t see any logical reason why negations would not allow us to keep access to the EU market.

    No, I don’t claim it’s all plain sailing, there are negatives, maybe they slightly outweigh the positives, maybe they don’t.

    I do object to the frankly idiotic ramblings that “millions of jobs will be lost” if we pull out of the EU, and can only sigh in pity when it comes from an MEP who’s post reads that of a churnalistic press release.

  • David Evans 16th Oct '13 - 2:40pm

    It’s amazing how little history some Europhiles know. Comments like “We watched our manufacturing collapse in the sixties and seventies because we were ruled by those too stupid to see the advantages of membership until it was too late.” just show it.

    The UK tried to join the EEC in 1961 and was vetoed by President de Gaulle, and it happened in 1967 as well. Do not underestimate the foresight of those in government in that era. They were less fools than most of our recent leaders.

  • It’s begging the question though to assume that those supply chains are dependent upon being in the EU.

    I do believe there is a case to be made to stay in Europe, but I think you will do yourselves harm to make such arguments, boy who cried wolf etc.

  • @David Evans.
    Britain was only in the position to be applying because it had refused to take part in the initial negotiations and then realised its mistake. But then I don’t doubt for a second that you knew that.

    Now is very much the time for the Libdems to make it clear that they are the party of in. We need at least one party that isn’t determined to cut off Britain’s nose to spite its face.

  • I really dislike the implication that this is a case of TINA along with the rather unsubtle threat that all sorts of chaos will ensue if the vote goes the ‘wrong’ way. Of course there’s an alternative – we should be arguing for a liberal vision of Europe that would be very different than the bureaucrat-led, top-down and unaccountable version we have now. The comments on the linked ‘Party of “in”‘ post here on LDV overwhelmingly support that view in one way or another yet the message doesn’t seem to have reached Clegg & Co yet with the result that, to the public at large, it will appear that we are merely defending the status quo.

    Equally misleading are promises that various free trade initiatives could lead to a large increase in manufacturing jobs. There are lots of things wrong with this starting with ‘could’ does not equal ‘will’. Historically promoters of free trade treaties always promise job gains but the outcome is often losses. In the case of the proposed TTIP treaty, all promises of gains seem to track back to work by the CEPR (linked in this post) which is methodologically highly suspect. If instead we stop to think we might wonder why it is that UK manufacturing as a whole has been so unsuccessful (with honourable exceptions) over many decades. If UK manufacturers cannot succeed on home turf where culture and geography are on their side then why on earth do we assume they will suddenly succeed overseas where these become negatives? FWIW, I think we should look to domestic issues like the scarcity and/or expense of capital for smaller firms, lack of adequate technical training and a host of other institutional failings but of course it’s so much easier to chase the will’-o’-the-wisp promise of easy wins from overseas trade than to get stuck into the tricky business of weeding the garden.

  • Martin Lowe 16th Oct '13 - 5:07pm


    Virtually everyone who wants Britain to stay in the EU can come up with some elements where the EU doesn’t work as well as it should.

    But right now, the debate isn’t about nuance – it’s about picking a side in an IN/OUT debate that political extremists** have pushed Britain towards.

    ** yes, I do mean “extremists” – when UKIP members can call long-time eurosceptic Bill Cash MP a traitor at his own party conference event, there is no other word more apt to describe them

  • @ Martin Lowe,

    Well, yes. Political extremists have indeed pushed Britain towards an IN/OUT debate but only because no other option has been provided so conceding that the IN/OUT question properly framed the debate. I don’t blame eurosceptics for arguing their corner but I do regret that Lib Dems have not proposed a reform agenda with any real energy.

    When the referendum comes how can I in good conscience vote for an institution that, despite many good things, has trashed Greece and devastated the prospects of a generation of young people across southern Europe. Yes, I know that’s down to the design flaws of the euro specifically but that’s a subsidiary part of the package and something that official Lib Dems campaigned for with just the sort of dodgy TINA reasoning that is still being deployed.

    Whatever the outcome of a referendum it won’t be the final act. The EU is fatally wounded by its failings and, as someone put it on another thread, needs its own version of the Great Reform Act to rescue it.

  • “how can I in good conscience vote for an institution that, despite many good things, has trashed Greece and devastated the prospects of a generation of young people across southern Europe.”

    Neither of those things is remotely true.

  • Fake
    Other parts of the world are creating economic unions.It would be more difficult for Britain to access these markets if it is outside the EU.

  • *Other parts of the world are creating economic unions.It would be more difficult for Britain to access these markets if it is outside the EU.*


    It’s easy to make lot’s of claims like “3 million jobs at risk” and “we need the EU for trade negotiations”.

    I don’t buy it, especially as one can look at the EU – US free trade agreement and see the various EU restrictions making it harder to achieve.

  • @ Chris,

    You provide no argument to support your bald assertions.

    How do you account for the human disaster that is happening in Greece or the monstrous youth unemployment in Spain? Of course, I’m not saying that these countries have no responsibility for what has happened – obviously they have a very grave responsibility – but the EU has compounded their problems massively by adding in extra constraints and rigidities. Here in Britain our response to the financial crisis has been more flexible because of our ability to devalue and print money. Again not ideal solutions but vital flexibility nevertheless given the total unwillingness to tackle banking vested interests.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Roland
    @Thomas HJ - We do know that the pipeline leak monitoring sensors detected signatures consistent with detonations of explosives... Which would tend to rule out ...
  • George Thomas
    Hugo Gye, political editor of The Independent, in article and tweet on 30/09/22 said that policies apart from top rate tax cut and bankers' bonuses polled well ...
  • Martin
    Tomas HJ: No, it would be highly unlikely, particularly with the two leakages from the unused Nord Stream II pipeline. Four leakages at more or less the same t...
  • Martin
    Paul Barker: I understand you are trying to be positive, but your comment is getting close to complacency. My guess is that the lack of a conference is costing...
  • Tomas HJ
    @Tom Arms: I'd like to know what evidence you can point to that any submarines in the Baltic have sabotaged the Nordstream pipelines (*spoiler alert: Russian su...