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Staying or leaving the EU: do the arguments stand up?

With a new vote on EU membership now inevitable and with so much hanging on the outcome, the Industry Forum is pushing hard to discuss and understand the issues.

On 8th September, Alan Johnson MP, the head of Labour’s pro-EU campaign, led a great Industry Forum discussion on ‘Why we should say ‘Yes’ to Europe. A few days later, Rod Dowler was interviewed about EU membership on Share Radio and gave his views based on working in Europe and for a number of parts of the European Commission. https://audioboom.com/boos/3559023-should-businesses-support-eu-membership-roddowler-industryforum-on-the-eureferendum

At the Labour Conference, in Brighton, one of the first fringe meetings was a ‘Rally for yes!’ Alan Johnsons’ natural enthusiasm shone out of the enveloping gloom of the Odeon Brighton as he kicked off a strong line of MPs, MEPs and trade union people supporting EU membership while keen to keep social benefits as well single market benefits.

The atmosphere at the Conservative conference in Manchester was more siege-like given the heavy presence of protestors outside the secure zone. This did not affect a great POLICY FACTOR! meeting on ‘How can Cameron win in Europe?’  Charles Grant of Centre for European Reform kicked off with a moderate and well argued pro-EU introduction. David Lidington, Minister for Europe, and Lord Borwick gave some fascinating insights into the objectives and complexities of the pre-referendum negotiations.

Last week, the ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ campaign launched under the leadership of Lord Stuart Rose. The moderate and well-honed arguments of this business-backed alliance were hardly novel but did highlight the scale of our present business involvement with Europe and the uncertain nature of the alternatives.

Our conclusions from these initial campaign skirmishes are that four key questions stand out:

  1. How could the shortcomings of the EU be fixed without losing its benefits?
  2. What would be the realistic economic outcome of leaving the EU and what is a likely period of adjustment?
  3. What are the geopolitical risks associated with a less-united Europe and how might they affect economic security?
  4. Assuming a vote to remain, what would be needed to make the EU economically more successful and politically more attractive?

At present, the answers to these questions are not clear. Throughout the period until the referendum, therefore, the Industry Forum will be probing these, and related questions and inviting leading policy makers and commentators to help explore the key issues and help come to the best and most objective conclusion for the UK.