Ahead of the EU leaders’ summit this week, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, has set out five key priorities for the reform and renegotiation discussions and offered support to the Prime Minister from tens of thousands of businesses if he secures a deal in the interests of the UK economy.
The full text of the letter is below:
“Dear Prime Minister,
As you prepare for the first EU leaders’ summit since being re-elected as Prime Minister, there are, I know, a number of hugely significant matters for you and your counterparts to address – including the situation in Greece and events in Ukraine.
In addition, you will be seeking to address the UK’s future relationship with the European Union. There is now broad agreement across the political spectrum that our relationship with the EU needs to change and, as the Eurozone moves away from us, that the status quo is not an option. Ahead of the talks, I wanted to write on behalf of the tens of thousands of businesses who will back your efforts to secure meaningful changes to our relationship with the EU.
As you set about that task, there are five key elements businesses will want you to focus on.
First, in a Europe in which the decisions will be made by and for the Eurozone – a club of which we will never be a member – Britain must have absolute guarantees to protect our economic and other interests within the EU. Second, it is necessary to sort out the “common market” so that it works for British business. The UK is by and large a service sector economy and yet there is no meaningful internal market in services within the EU and, at the same time, the market in goods is imperfect and unravelling. Third, we need a cast iron opt-out to make sure we do not sleepwalk into an ‘ever closer union’. Fourth, we need to protect our businesses from the regulatory burdens imposed by the EU, particularly those that do not relate directly to trade, again with an opt-out if necessary. The vast majority of the UK’s economic activity is not directly derived from trade with the rest of the European Union — and yet all of that activity is hit by the cost of European regulation. Finally, we need a clear and balanced approach to immigration taking into account the need for stability and social cohesion and driven by the skills requirements of our economy, meaning businesses can access the talent they need.
This is a defining moment for our country and for our future prosperity. Businesses understand that you will want to guarantee the sovereignty of the UK and to secure a settlement which takes into account the UK’s economic welfare. If you do that, the tens of thousands of the businesses the BCC represents will be four-square behind you. However, they will be deeply concerned if issues central to the country’s prosperity are overlooked or compromised at the negotiating table.
As you tackle these negotiations over the coming months, the BCC stands ready to work with you. At the same time, we will continue to talk to thousands of businesses of all shapes and sizes, across the whole of the UK, meaning we are able to represent the authentic voice of business.