Will Straw, Exec Director of Britain Stronger In Europe, has the business case for Britain remaining in the EU
Since before the Industrial Revolution, Britain has been a powerful trading nation with a dynamic economy at the centre of European and world affairs. That’s how we became the strong, proud, prosperous country we are today. That’s also why the choice facing us in the upcoming referendum on our membership of the European Union is the biggest we’ve ever had to make.
Now, the referendum raises a number of questions about the sort of future we back for Britain.
Do we want Britain to remain part of the biggest duty free area on the planet? Or do we want to walk away, risking jobs and weakening our economy?
Do we want the UK to continue to lead in the world by leading in Europe? Or do we turn our back on Europe, diminishing our influence on the world stage?
And do we protect our ability to combat the cross-border threats the UK faces, whether serious crime, international terrorism or climate change. Or do we reject the partnerships that make that possible?
In short, do we choose to be stronger, with an economy that creates opportunity for future generations and the power to shape the future, or do we choose to be weaker, less able to influence global developments that risk harming our economy and compromising our safety?
Being in Europe makes British business stronger. Half of everything British exporters sell to the rest of the world we sell to customers in the EU. And we get around £26 billion of investment into the UK per year from Europe. That’s why the Confederation of British Industry estimates that 3 million jobs in Britain are linked to trade with the rest of Europe.
That’s why businesses of all sizes and in all sectors have warned that leaving Europe would be bad news. From banks to farmers to manufacturers, the consensus that Britain is stronger in Europe is increasingly clear amongst UK business.
Trade with the rest of the world is stronger for our place in Europe too. Because negotiating trade deals as part of a 500 million-strong economy gives us clout we could never have on our own. Thanks to our membership of the European Union, we benefit from free trade agreements with more than 50 countries around the world. And we are also trading more and more with rising economies like China, India and Brazil with whom the EU is negotiating future trade and investment agreements, as it is with the United States.
It’s not an either or: Britain can and does trade with Europe while building prosperous trading relationships with the rest of the world. And when it comes to negotiating free trade agreements we are stronger doing so through the EU.
So while the referendum is rightly a choice that the British people will have to make – maybe as soon as June this year – British businesses have a stake in the choice too. They have a stake not only because it’s their goods and services that could be hit with tariffs if we voted to leave, but also because the public deserves a well-informed debate. There is an important role for business in providing that information and giving their view.
From bike manufacturers in Hammersmith to tea importers in Wales, businesses have already started making the case that British business is stronger in Europe. But as the referendum approaches we need more to join the discussion. I encourage any business with something to gain or lose from the referendum to say so and say so now.
Because leaving the EU would risk the UK’s future prosperity. Going out on our own is a risk we simply can’t afford to take – not for the UK public who are £3,000 per household better off per year because of our membership or for the nearly 200,000 UK businesses who trade with the EU.
Read Vote Leave’s argument for Brexit here.
Weber Shandwick is hosting a debate on Brexit on 7th June. For more information, visit: http://webershandwick.co.uk/the-weber-shandwick-brexit-business-debate/