By Daniel Hunter

The UK must remain part of the European Union with ‘no ifs or buts’, Britain’s manufacturers have told the Prime Minister and party leaders in a major report and survey published today (Monday).

In a letter to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said that Britain’s membership of the EU is central to businesses and their investment plans in the short and long-term.

Eighty-five per cent of EEF’s members who expressed a view said they would vote now to remain in the EU, according to the report Manufacturing: Our Future in Europe.

Manufacturers say membership is critical to exports, and the economic benefits far outweigh concerns about regulation or the repatriation of powers.

And companies warn that the UK’s membership is central to their investment and business plans. A third said that if the UK was to leave the EU, they were less likely to increase investment in Britain. And two thirds indicated that they would have to make significant changes to their business plans if the UK exits.

Terry Scuoler urged party leaders not to gamble on the UK’s future in Europe and said that membership of the EU is central to business growth and investment plans. He called on them to get behind a new deal on Europe, and to lead a debate where the focus is on Britain’s economic potential. He said Government should tie any new settlement on Europe into making the EU work better for growth.

Three in five manufacturers contacted by EEF said they believe government should focus on improving competitiveness across Europe rather than negotiate special deals or opt-outs for Britain.

Terry Scuoler challenged ministers to:

- Set the terms of the debate — which should be about securing the best outcome for the UK’s economy and selling a compelling proposition to businesses and the public about the benefits of European membership

- Take the lead to secure tangible economic gains for the UK and other member states - by refocusing discussion on trade, innovation, single market completion and a coherent and systematic reduction of red tape

Be better at being in Europe — as the UK is not an outlier in wanting change.

Commenting, Terry Scuoler said: “Britain must not gamble on its future in Europe. The stakes are enormous. It is naïve to think we can simply pull up the drawbridge and carry on as normal. The debate must move on to how we can make Europe work to support jobs, growth and higher living standards.

“We need to focus on the real prize — how we can get Europe to work better supporting companies that are looking to sell into the EU, to export to new markets in the rest of the world and develop new products and services.

“We must be at the centre of the change we want to see in Europe, to help secure the prize and ensure we share in it. Billions of pounds of trading opportunities are at stake and we must keep the focus — and the wider debate — on these opportunities which will unleash growth in our economy now and in the longer term.

“The clear message from manufacturers, who employ millions in the UK, is that we must lead on this and play an active part in shaping the EU from within.”

EEF’s analysis, entitled ‘Manufacturing: Our Future In Europe’, is based on consultation and research with members ranging from multinational corporate businesses to small and medium sized companies.

Key data from Manufacturing: Our Future In Europe :

- 85 per cent of EEF members support Britain’s ongoing membership of the EU
- UK benefited from £2.7 billion of R&D spending carried out by EU parented companies in 2011
- 37 per cent of companies would have to make significant changes to their business plans if the UK left the EU — and one third would be less likely to invest here
- The UK attracts the most foreign investment out of all countries in Europe
- Almost 90 per cent of EEF manufacturers sell directly or indirectly to customers in the EU
- Three in five members say the EU is key to their export strategy

Since the UK joined the EU:

- UK economy 2.5 times bigger
- GDP per capita has more than doubled
- 4.5 million more people in employment
- Increased productivity

The size of the prize:

- Completing all the trade deals currently on the table would bring a benefit the EU economy of approximately € 275 billion (Source: European Commission)
- Completion of the single market could add 10% to EU GDP over the very long term.

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