As the Prime Minister sets out his opening position on renegotiating the UK’s relationship with the EU, British business will want to support his attempt to achieve a new settlement for the country. The importance of this process should not be underestimated. In a survey of business leaders this September by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), half responded that the content of the Prime Minister’s renegotiation package was likely to affect how they will vote.
Previous BCC surveys have consistently shown that the majority of business leaders support Britain staying in a reformed European Union. In its open letter from the Director General, John Longworth, to the Prime Minister in June ahead of the EU summit, the BCC urged the PM to clarify his position on renegotiation, setting out five key areas against which success can be measured.
The PM's plan touches upon four of these business priorities – but business would like to have seen the Prime Minister commit to fully reforming the single market, to ensure that a truly competitive single market in both goods and services is created across the EU.
Many in the British business community will be anxious to see how many solid changes the negotiations achieve before deciding how to vote in the referendum. In the meantime, they will no doubt be keen to keep the period of uncertainty as short as possible.
John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:
“The Prime Minister has taken a courageous position in the national interest, declaring areas of negotiation for the reform of the EU and making it clear he is prepared to walk away from the table. British business will applaud this and no doubt judge the outcome against how successful these negotiations are in achieving reform.
“The referendum will be an historic decision and there are undoubtedly risks and opportunities attached to both leaving, and to staying in, the EU. It is vitally important that the facts are shared with the business community and the British people, so that a fully informed decision can be made.”