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July 2, 2014 1:55 pm
Britain needs to push for EU reform from within the bloc or risk losing millions of jobs and investment, the head of UK manufacturers’ trade body has warned.
Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, said the UK could “sleepwalk” out of the EU with damaging consequences if it failed to articulate the economic benefits of staying.
“I think there is clearly a big issue of getting those messages out. There is real evidence to suggest that if we came out of the EU there would be a reduction in investment, there would be an impact on jobs so it would be better for us to stay and push for reform from within,” Mr Scuoler told the Financial Times.
The EEF is the latest business group to warn about the prospect of Britain leaving the EU over the past week as the debate has intensified following David Cameron’s failed attempt to block Jean-Claude Juncker’s candidacy to lead the European Commission.
On Monday, the head of the CBI said it was essential for the success of Britain’s economy to remain in the bloc and fight for change, noting that there was widespread support across the EU for reforms such as completing the single market and reducing regulation.
Mr Scuoler said 85 per cent of his members strongly supported continued membership. If the UK left, one-third would reduce investment, while two-thirds would significantly alter their business plans.
“Could the UK have secured the kind of trade agreement the EU has secured with South Korea or China on its own? I very much doubt it,” he said.
Nigel Stein, chief executive of GKN, one of Britain’s leading manufacturers, warned in March that uncertainty over the UK’s position in the EU was already being used against British companies by their competitors.
David Cameron is under pressure from all sides and faces a delicate balancing act in attempting to renegotiate an acceptable UK membership settlement with the EU
But Mr Scuoler, who takes up his appointment as chair of Ceemet, the European engineering industry group on Thursday, agreed with other business groups and politicians that the EU was in “dire need” of reform.
In a speech to MEPs in Strasbourg on Thursday he will call for a reduction in the number of Brussels’ 28 European commissioners and a cut in red tape to remove barriers to growth.
Ceemet, which represents 200,000 companies across 23 nations in Europe, also wants an independent body set up that would conduct a rigorous competitiveness test for all new legislation.
Mr Scuoler said there was not a hope of achieving the EU’s target of raising manufacturing’s contribution to EU gross domestic product from the current 15.1 per cent to 20 per cent by 2020 if changes were not made.
“The recent elections have sent an uncomfortable message to European policy makers that must now be heeded as a matter of urgency,” he said.
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