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Business must turn up the volume over EU debate – says CBI

The time is ripe for EU reform says CBI president.  Businesses must speak out early in favour of remaining within a reformed European Union, CBI President Sir Mike Rake said at the CBI’s flagship Annual Dinner on Tuesday evening (19/05).

He made the case for Britain remaining at the heart of a reformed EU and the importance of maintaining the integrity of the UK’s single internal market. Sir Mike also issued a call to arms to the Government and business to tackle longer-term issues facing the country, from airport capacity to ensuring growth works for everyone.

Sir Mike Rake stated:  “Business welcomes the fact that several weeks of negotiations to form a new government were avoided. And business will very much welcome the continuity the Prime Minister has shown in his choice of ministerial appointments. Today, we are at a critical moment for growth. The election may be over, but risks remain – at home and abroad. Our fiscal deficit is still the highest of any major EU country. And on the global stage, headwinds persist. From structural challenges in the Eurozone, to Greece’s on-going debt issues and conflict in the Ukraine.”

Pointing to the UK’s strong economic growth and falling unemployment, Sir Mike credited the Coalition for tackling the deficit and pursuing pro-enterprise policies, for example by reducing the headline rate of corporation tax, saying: “With our political future more certain and our economic outlook more positive – now is the time to tackle remaining challenges to growth.”

On Britain’s place in a reformed EU, Sir Mike urged business leaders to speak out in favour of the benefits of EU membership, arguing the time is ripe for reform: “Business has increasingly spoken out on this crucial issue and the time has come to turn up the volume. Speaking out clearly and in a language which people can understand. In the months to come, our country will have to make its own choice. A choice between openness and isolation. Between shaping the future or retreating into the past.”

“The question is not whether the UK would survive outside the EU, but whether it would thrive. No-one has yet set out a credible alternative future to EU membership. The current alternatives are not realistic options – little or no influence and the obligation to comply with EU principles whilst still paying most of the costs. “Norway is the 10th highest contributor to the EU budget – despite not being a member – and it took Switzerland nine years to negotiate and implement partial access to the Single Market.”

“Business must be crystal clear that membership is in our national interest. The EU is key to our national prosperity. Letting us set the trade agenda, be part of the biggest free trade deal ever negotiated – TTIP – and be able to properly compete with global giants like China and India. While acknowledging public concerns around immigration, Sir Mike will point out that “skilled migration” is part of the solution.”

But Sir Mike also called for the UK to redouble efforts to build alliances to achieve EU reform and to complete the single market, saying: “Today the moment is ripe for reform. The things we want are shared by our European colleagues and the EU can be more competitive without the need for treaty change.

“We – of course – need to complete the Single Market. And the Commission has made a start on the Single Market for a digital age. “And with Vice-President Timmermans’ recent drive on deregulation, the Commission is focusing on fewer, higher-profile challenges – putting quality over quantity when it comes to legislation.
The Capital Markets Union shows signs of this new approach – with the possibility of unlocking the potential of financial services right across the EU.”

Sir Mike also highlighted how the City is Europe’s financial capital, and warn that the UK regulatory environment is going above and beyond others and that there are unmistakeable signs of activity being diverted elsewhere:  “Of course – the City is ‘Europe’s financial capital’.


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