Tim Farron writes… British businesses say we must stay in the EU. Let’s go out and make that case.

UKIP and the many Conservatives who say we should pull out of the EU might want to keep a low profile today. The CBI, which represents some 240,000 businesses up and down the country, has published a landmark report in support of Britain’s EU membership. It found that 8 out of 10 of its members would vote to remain part of the EU, including 77% of small businesses, and concluded that the overall benefits of EU membership massively outweigh the costs. In fact, each of us is thought to be around £1225 better off a year thanks to EU membership, while on average we each only pay around £116 into the EU budget. Even the staunchest eurosceptic would have to admit that’s a pretty good deal.

It is not just the CBI that is beginning to speak out about the importance of the EU for jobs and growth in Britain. Over the past month, we’ve seen the manufacturing sector coming out in favour of EU membership with “no ifs or buts,” and the overwhelming majority of business leaders in London’s Square Mile saying the EU benefits the UK as a whole. Meanwhile leading entrepreneur Richard Branson, along with major foreign investors such as Nissan and Hitachi, have all warned that leaving the EU would be an utter disaster for the UK economy, jeopardising jobs and inward investment.

The central message from the business community is clear: the UK should concentrate on creating jobs by reforming the EU for the better, not put them at risk by pulling out. And that is the message that we, as Liberal Democrats, have to keep hammering home from now until the European elections next May. In Europe, in work, out of Europe, out of work.

As Chair of the 2014 Election Campaign, I’m looking forward to an unashamedly pro-European campaign. We need to take the fight to UKIP and the Tories, whose reckless plans to leave the EU would put millions of jobs at risk and diminish our influence in the world. We need to take the fight to Labour, whose only position on Europe is to pretend it doesn’t exist. Only the Liberal Democrats, as the unambiguous Party of In, can be relied upon to make a strong, pragmatic case for why Britain should play a leading role in the EU. With businesses both large and small behind us, our case is getting stronger by the day.

* Tim Farron is Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Refugees and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale.

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23 Comments

  • jedibeeftrix 4th Nov '13 - 8:48am

    “British businesses say we must stay in [a reformed] EU. Let’s go out and make that case.”

    You missed a word from the title, Tim.

    The header of every single page of the report even says:

    “Our Global Future: the business vision for a reformed eu”

    The executive summary states:

    “Business wants a permanent shift in the focus of the EU towards those issues that will underpin our prosperity in the future.
    The current crisis means that the Eurozone must integrate further but, sitting outside these moves towards integration, the UK will not be part of this.
    Safeguarding the Single Market and protecting the voting rights of those outside the Eurozone is critical.
    There is also a historic opportunity to both allow those states that wish to go further to do so but at the same time set the limits of what is best done
    in Brussels and what should be left to the member states themselves.
    This reform agenda is achievable. British business is convinced that, by staying in a reformed EU, the UK can get the best of both worlds”

    So, Tim, when you say:

    “Even the staunchest eurosceptic would have to admit that’s a pretty good deal.”

    Sure, but at what price is this achieved? As noted by the CBI, what matters is the form that that future integration takes and whether this will marginalise the UK as a eurozone out. This is not an idle academic question:

    http://jedibeeftrix.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/double-qmv-for-the-ebu-the-single-market-as-separate-from-the-eurozone/

    And this would seem to be exactly the kind of reform that Cameron seems to have pushed, to ensure that Britain isn’t marginalised within the EU, so I ask you:

    What value will be recognised by the voting public in your “unashamedly In” euro-election manifesto?

  • Of course the LibDems should run an unashamedly pro-European campaign. Full involvement in the EU is vital to Britain’s prosperity and even survival and yet too many politicians are questioning it, on the basis of the sort of wibble you can read in the post above. Being pro-European is a great vote winner. Go for it.

  • Brian Mathew 4th Nov '13 - 9:49am

    Tim £1225 a year better off for every single one of us for being a member of the EU good arguement………., I’ll warrant the cost if we were to pull out would be considerably more , especially here in the West Country where AIrbus, Honda and BMW to mention three are major employers. Lose them and we would be well and truly in trouble.

  • Martin Lowe 4th Nov '13 - 10:01am

    Two additional pieces of information:

    1) the CBI are currently liaising with their German counterparts on EU regulations – not just looking at ones that can be removed or reformed as they make doing business harder, but looking at areas for further harmonisation to make doing business easier (I found this buried away in the business section of the Daily Telegraph)

    2) the head of the CBI this morning on BBC Breakfast clearly stated that they spent ten months looking at all the alternatives to EU membership , and all of them are worse for British business. This won’t stop some trying to offer up these discounted options (much in the same way as opponents of HS2 continually raise unworkable and rejected schemes), so the important thing is to make it clear straight off why trying to re establish Commonwealth Preference or copying Norway & paying to implement EU directives decided without our input are nonsensical proposals for Britain.

  • I think this from the CBI press release says it all: “{it is} overwhelmingly in our national interest to stay in the EU – but reforms are urgently needed”. Pretty much a summation of the LibDem position, though the CBI are admirably non-partisan, and one we should push this statement as much as we can.

  • Melanie Harvey 4th Nov '13 - 10:41am

    Miscarriages of justice particularly for lits in person determine we must stay in too.

  • Alex Macfie 4th Nov '13 - 1:46pm

    As Chair of the 2014 European Election Campaign, Tim Farron seems to have got the wrong campaign and policy pack. The campaign themes he is using seem to be those for the party’s domestic policy on the EU for the 2015 election, rather than those for our European-level policy for the 2014 European Parliamennary election. I’ve said this before and I shall say it again, whether you want the UK to be In or Out is a domestic issue, and nothing to do with what MEPs actually do. Nothing here tells voters how voting for Lib Dem MEPs will make different policy for the EU from voting for Labour or Tory MEPs. Britain’s role in the EU is irrelevant in European elections: MEPs don’t act as national delegations. Our European election campaign needs to be about what we, as Liberals, will do to influence EU policy.

  • I have always been pro Europe, the only problem I see is if changes are made to our part of the treaty, like human rights and a reduction of workers’ rights then no I really don’t want to be part of that and would vote out…

    I can see it being a big issue for many workers if their rights are diluted if favour of business… I think this is where Mr Cameron is going to fall foul of the British people, we need the same rights as our co workers across the EU, I thought the 48 hour working directive was good for everyone, and let’s be honest it would be if minimum wages were £8.00 an hour, instead UK workers are encouraged to opt out of the 48 hour week and inm many cases have to to earn a decent weekly crust.

    Instead the UK worker is forced to do more for less, ZHC are the biggest example of abuse…

    So if changes against workers go through I can see an out vote winning no matter what the parties or government say.

  • Good points Alex, fundamentally for the 2014 EU elections, the reality is that the UK is a member of the EU and has the right to elect people to work within that organisation, something we should exercise with due care to best further our interests from within the EU.

    The CBI report, whilst welcome and an interesting read, is to some extent backdrop. In some respects a key use is to provide ammunition for why we (in the UK) should be taking the EU and the 2014 MEP elections seriously, regardless of any in/out debate and future in/out vote.

  • There is no point whatsoever in the LDs campaigning as a “pro-EU” party when the LDs are – together with the Tories – opting the UK out of the EU’s JHA provisions that have been law here in the UK in some case for up to 20 years. Those provisions, remember, were actively supported at EU level by the UK (as they were all subject to veto).

    This opt-out is taking place despite the complete lack of public demand for it (no one is exactly marching on parliament for this opt-out) and despite there being a perfect political opportunity to call a referendum on it – a referendum in which UKIP and their fellow travellers would face a massive up-hill battle to convince the public of their case.

    As such, when the LDs vote to implement a policy that UKIP would kill to be able to claim credit for, the LDs will firmly nail their colours to the “anti-EU” mast and UKIP et al will – with perfect honesty – be able to accuse the LDs of being complete hypocrites if the party even attempts to advance a “pro-EU” message in future.

  • Richard Dean 5th Nov '13 - 1:50am

    We should be in the EU because we are Europeans, not for any other reason. Every political organization undergoes continual reform; it’s the anti-Europeans who have created the opposite caricature.

    Making the business case may be problematic. Many people see businesses as things that try and often succeed in making excessive profits out of ordinary people. “The EU is good for business” doesn’t give the right message for many of those people.

    Better to make the case that the EU is better for ordinary people. Not only in economic terms, but in things like helping to safeguard employment and other rights, as well as culturally, in terms of security, and in other ways.

  • jedibeeftrix 5th Nov '13 - 7:41am

    “We should be in the EU because we are Europeans, not for any other reason.”

    That is a very broad ‘we’ you are casting about there.

    That it is difficult to make a business case just goes to show how emotionally detached a lot of people are from the project.

  • Richard Dean 5th Nov '13 - 8:56am

    That’s a “we” that includes everyone on this island. All anyone has to do is time the trip from Dover to Calais, or the flight to Paris. Compare it with the flight to Delhi, for example, or to New York or Caracas or Singapore.

    People are emotionally detached from business, not from Europe. We all know we are Europeans, almost all the history we are taught at school is European history, much of our national pride and feeling of natural commonality with other nations comes from our role in an advanced Europe as opposed to a developing rest of the world, yes, and we even created the US, not the other way around. I could go on and on, but that’s for the politicians to do

  • jedibeeftrix 5th Nov '13 - 8:58pm

    you cannot speak for anothers identity.

    i would not presume to question the lack of a british identity claimed by a pro separation scottish nat, for it is their to decide, and that self same privilege is open to everyone.

  • Richard Dean 6th Nov '13 - 12:07am

    I can measure travel times.

  • Richard Dean 6th Nov '13 - 2:02am

    Identity is another red herring raised by the anti-EU crowd. Britain is part of Europe, so anyone who claims to be British is also claiming to be European. End of story. We need to be in the EU because of that. French people did not lose their French identity as a result of the Treaty of Rome. The game is not zero-sum.

  • jedibeeftrix 6th Nov '13 - 8:11am

    beautiful election manifesto statement there, i wonder how keen the federal policy executive (some such name?), will be to adopt it?

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Nov '13 - 9:45am

    Being too loyal to anything is a mistake. The north of England shouldn’t even guarantee its loyalty to the south of England, never mind the EU.

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Nov '13 - 9:47am

    By the way it’s not about nationalism, but preventing exploitation.

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