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Matthew Elliott: Join Business for Britain and help us sketch a new deal from the EU

MEMatthew 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.


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