Business leaders from around the Commonwealth have expressed their members' desire for the UK to remain in the European Union, with the UK "a more attractive place to invest" as part of the Union.
Following conversations with fellow business lobby groups in the Commonwealth, the CBI said that one of the main attractions of investing in the UK is access to the single market of 500 million consumers, and Commonwealth businesses see the UK playing an important role in driving market liberalisation in the EU.
The UK’s membership of the EU brings benefits not just to the British economy through increased trade, but also to Commonwealth countries who have trade deals with the EU and can therefore trade easily with the UK.
The EU has agreed free trade deals with Canada, Singapore and South Africa, and will open negotiations with Australia and New Zealand next year.
Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, said: “Remaining in the European Union and trading with some of our closest Commonwealth allies are not mutually exclusive – they are mutually reinforcing."
“European trade agreements currently in progress with Commonwealth nations will give the UK greater access to established and high growth markets," she added. "We already do £40 billion of trade with some of the Commonwealth’s largest economies each year1, so by pushing the EU to continue removing current barriers, we can create more jobs and drive growth in the UK. And as part of the EU, trade deals open up the whole single market to our Commonwealth partners."
The Honourable John Manley, president and chief executive of the Business Council of Canada said: "Canadian companies invest more in the UK than anywhere else in the world except for the US, and they do so in large measure because they consider the UK a gateway to the rest of Europe. The recently completed EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement would only increase the UK’s importance to Canada.”
Chandrajit Banerjee, director-general of the Confederation of Indian Industry, said: India invests more in the UK than in the rest of Europe combined, emerging as the UK’s third largest FDI investor. Access to European markets is therefore a key driver for Indian companies coming to the UK.
"Anything that lessens this attractiveness may have a bearing on future investment decisions. It is important also to ensure continued border-free access to the rest of Europe for the many hundreds of existing Indian firms that have manufacturing bases in the UK."
Khanyisile Kweyama, chief executive of Business Unity South Africa, said: “Since South Africa signed a free trade agreement with the EU, substantial mutual benefits have accrued to both South Africa and the EU, including the UK, as a result of the substantial growth in trade.
“South Africa’s trade with Europe has increased by more than 120% while Foreign Direct Investment has also grown fivefold. Investing the benefits of this growth is fundamental to generating jobs and raising the level of prosperity for all our peoples. We want the UK to remain in the EU, to build a more prosperous Commonwealth, Africa and Europe.”
Ho Meng Kit, CEO of the Singapore Business Federation, said: "The EU is Singapore's third largest trading partner and largest investor, accounting for nearly a quarter of our total foreign direct investment. Brexit would risk Europe's stability at a time when the global economy is fragile.
“Like Singapore, the UK is an open and dynamic economy. We value the UK's influence in the EU as we continue to pursue the ratification of the EU - Singapore Free Trade Agreement. For this reason, our members hope that Britain will vote to remain in the EU.”
Carole Kariuki, CEO of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, said: “The UK’s influence makes the EU significantly more outward looking, beyond Europe’s shores and in the direction of growing markets the world over. This is a significant boon to Kenya and other African countries, as we look to increase our trade with the single market.”
Warren McDonald JP, president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, said: “Jamaica and the majority of the countries of the Caribbean are heavily dependent on foreign trade. While the work of achieving a single market remains a work-in-progress, we consider the arrangement indispensable for Jamaica’s economic sustainability and of great importance to the prosperity of our countries.
“In large measure, our access to the EU has been through the gateway of the UK by virtue of our long and durable relationship. We are therefore very hopeful that the UK will make the choice to remain inside the EU.”