By Daniel Hunter

Britain ’s priority should be to reshape the European Union to help make it work better for Britain said EEF, the Manufacturers’ Organisation in a call ahead of the Prime Minister’s speech on Europe.

The government’s focus should be on working from inside the EU to ensure it does more to generate growth, jobs and investment in Britain rather than raising doubts about our future in Europe when UK businesses already face so much uncertainty.

It should also take advantage of any opportunity to renegotiate a better deal for Britain as part of any negotiations on potential Treaty changes, but this should be done in a way that helps rather than obstructs the eurozone to deal with the massive challenges it faces.

Commenting ahead of the Prime Minister’s speech tomorrow, EEF Chief Executive, Terry Scuoler, said:

“The politics of our relationship with Europe have always been complicated but, the government must rise above this and do what is best for growth, jobs and investment. The UK’s economic well-being is heavily linked to our biggest trading partner and we cannot afford to risk the disruption that leaving the EU would cause.

“However, there is no doubt that the EU needs to change if it is to succeed in the global race. This means putting competitiveness, jobs and growth at the heart of its agenda. We are starting to see signs of change and now is not the time to walk away from this process. Rather than raising doubts about our future in Europe, the government should focus on making it work better for Britain.”

EEF set out its current position for remaining within the EU on the following basis:

1. The UK’s access to EU markets (which represent 46% of UK exports), to markets around the world through trade deals negotiated as part of the EU and, a significant part of the inward investment we receive are all dependent on being part of the EU. Even though there are theoretical arguments that we could enjoy some or most of these benefits without being a (full) EU member, we cannot currently afford the disruption and uncertainty that leaving the EU would cause.

2. The EU needs, however, to work better for British business and British people. The best way we can make it work better is working closely with the rest of its members from a position within the Union. EEF has worked with its partner organisation in Europe to develop a strong manifesto for growth and deregulation to make Europe a more competitive place to do business. We also need to be active players in Europe to influence key decisions on trade deals with the rest of the world, complete the single market, and influence EU decisions on energy and climate change policy.

3. Through our relationship with the EU, we should look to reduce the level of regulation affecting the whole of the EU (and push for better regulation). The EU is a key market and we need it to be a more dynamic one. However, if the government was able to extract concessions for Britain as a result of a future Treaty change, these could be welcome but, should be won through constructive negotiation, not through threatening to obstruct necessary progress on resolving the eurozone’s problems or threatening to leave the EU.

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