A leading British business group has called for a much earlier referendum on Europe to prevent economic ‘uncertainty’.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) a group representing some of the largest businesses in the UK have called for a referendum of the EU ‘as soon as possible.’ The BCC’s annual conference held today in London will offer key warnings to politicians on businesses’ priorities regarding the upcoming election and what they want to see done.
John Longworth the Director General of BCC has urged politicians to hold a referendum much sooner than has previously been promised. David Cameron has already pledged to hold and in-out referendum on the EU in 2017 providing the Conservatives win at the General Election in May. However, the BCC state this is not soon enough and there are concerns about leaving the question unanswered for too long. Mr Longworth has stated that uncertainty is ‘not good for growth or investment’ stating the only way to solve such unease is to hold an early referendum.
BCC, strong supporters of remaining inside the European Union have long been warning and advising ministers on how to tackle the issues surrounding the EU. With some of the largest traders in the UK included in the BCC Mr Longworth is expected to reveal that member’s predominately support Mr Cameron’s plans to remain in a reformed Europe. For long term stability and planning it is important that businesses know whether there future is within Europe or not. Thus Mr Longworth claims the referendum should happen no later than 12 months after the General Election.
Whilst stability is the key call for an early referendum it is clear that BCC’s agenda is to push for reform within Europe. They warn of businesses’ fears of being drawn closer into the Eurozone without the political, economic and social integration to support it. A reformed system would ensure the future of the European Project, enabling businesses to continue trading at home and abroad without unnecessary restriction. Longworth warns against the debate on Europe being ‘hijacked by political ideology’ believing that ‘economic pragmatism’ should be central to the debate.
These calls are sure to put extreme pressure on the political parties over the European Issue. Whilst the Conservatives have promised a referendum this will increase pressure on them to bring it forward; a Conservative spokesperson stated that whilst the referendum was planned for 2017 if it could be bought forward it ‘would be fine’. The party however that will certainly be feeling the most strain from these comments is undoubtedly Labour. The party whose opposition to a referendum was hoped to bring them business support has been somewhat called into question by todays BCC comments. It is certainly true that they are already under enormous pressure to commit to a referendum and after today’s developments perhaps one much sooner than was originally anticipated. Business support for a referendum is growing and after Ed Balls failed to remember the name of one of Labour’s key business supporters in an attempt to show he was not anti-business Labour certainly has a long way to go before proving to businesses they are fit for office in May.