Staying in the European Union is “overwhelmingly” in Britain’s interest, although reforms are urgently needed, business leaders have said.
The CBI highlighted research showing EU membership was worth between £62 billion and £78bn to the UK – that’s around 4 to 5 per cent of the country’s total economic output.
The business group, which holds its national conference in London today, called for a number of reforms, including removing barriers to e-commerce, making the EU more outward-looking and re-focusing the work of commissioners.
The CBI said business also wanted a moratorium on legislation that could be made at a national level and a permanent UK opt-out from the working time directive.
Director-general John Cridland said: “We have looked beyond the political rhetoric to examine the pros and cons of EU membership, and British business is unequivocal – the single market is fundamental to our future.
“We are better off in a reformed EU than outside with no influence. Each year, membership is worth £3,000 to every household in this country.
“But the EU isn’t perfect, and there is a growing unease about the creeping extension of EU authority. Europe has to become more open, competitive and outward-looking if we are to grow and create opportunities and jobs for all our citizens.
“Contrary to popular myth, the UK is influential in the corridors of Brussels and will still be as long as we play our cards right. The single market is a great British success story and the best way for us to remain a leader on the world stage is from within the EU.”
Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “This compelling report makes a powerful business case for the UK’s continued membership of the EU.
“EU membership is one of the reasons why Britain is an attractive place to invest, as businesses in India told me last week.
“Liberal Democrats know that we are all better off with Britain in Europe. We can only build a stronger economy working together with our neighbours, exerting maximum influence in our continent and leading the reform agenda as the most liberal economy in Europe.”
Labour’s shadow Europe minister, Gareth Thomas, said: “The CBI’s report clearly shows that the business community doesn’t want to see Britain sleepwalk out of the EU.
“Despite this report making clear that British business wants us in Europe, the Tory party still wants David Cameron to take us out. Today’s report shows Europe brings each UK household £3,000 a year. David Cameron is willing to put this at risk because his approach to Europe is based on narrow party interest, not Britain’s national interest.
“Labour believes that a commitment to staying at the heart of the EU, along with a clear programme of deliverable reforms is the best course for Britain. Labour has long called for reforms to make Europe work better, including a new EU commissioner for growth to help focus Europe on delivering the jobs and prosperity that our country needs.”