British corporate leaders will likely vote for the U.K. to remain a part of the European Union, according to lobby groups for business, manufacturing and financial services.
The Institute of Directors said the deal reached by Prime Minister David Cameron and EU leaders is sufficient for more than 600 of its members to vote to stay in the bloc. Manufacturing group EEF said six in 10 of its members want to remain, based on a poll before the negotiations in Brussels were concluded. The contents of the agreement would do little or have no bearing in changing that view, the EEF said.
Cameron and EU leaders agreed on new terms to the U.K.’s membership of the bloc on Friday, including curbs on welfare for other EU citizens arriving to work in the U.K. The deal also included provisions for the U.K. financial services industry, measures making it easier to block unwanted regulations, and agreement that the EU goal of “ever closer union” doesn’t apply to Britain. Voters will decide in a referendum on June 23 whether Britain will leave the bloc.
“The prime minister has fought hard for this deal and has secured changes, in particular on reducing the burden of pointless or excessive red tape,” said Simon Walker, director general of the IoD. “The issue is of course much larger than this agreement. Our members have concerns about the way the EU operates in some areas. But this is balanced against the ability to trade easily across the single market,” he said.
The bosses of around half of the U.K.’s biggest companies are expected to sign a letter backing Cameron’s campaign to keep Britain in the EU, the Financial Times reported, without saying where it got the information. Heads of companies including BAE Systems, Shell, Rio Tinto will sign the letter, which will be published Tuesday, it said.
The EEF, which represents engineering, manufacturing and industry firms, said 61 percent of its members want to remain in the EU, mainly because membership makes it easier for companies to export. British manufacturing has been in the doldrums for years, as the strength of the pound and weak demand abroad weighs on exports.
“Companies, particularly those interested in exporting, do not see the point of the U.K. cutting itself off from its major market,” EEF Chief Executive Officer Terry Scuoler said. “They reject the idea that the U.K. faces a straight choice between exporting to the EU or expanding its global reach.”
TheCityUK, which represents U.K. financial services firms, said access to the single market has been a major factor in making London a leading global financial center.
“While leaving the EU may not be ruinous for the U.K. economy, it would most likely lead to a loss of jobs and a faltering in economic growth,” said Chris Cummings, the group’s chief executive.
About 60 percent of business leaders polled by the IoD after the deal was secured also said they would vote to remain in the EU, with 82 percent strongly supporting the agreement to make businesses more competitive by lowering administrative burdens and repealing unnecessary legislation.
The Confederation for British Industry — the country’s biggest business lobby — said Saturday that most of its members say being in a reformed EU is better for jobs, growth and prosperity. Business Secretary Sajid Javid said on Sunday that the economic risks of leaving were too great in the current climate.
The British Chambers of Commerce said that while businesses will be relieved that a deal has been reached, it falls short of their expectations. The group represents thousands of businesses of all sizes across industries.
“The choice facing businesses and business people is now becoming clearer,” British Chambers of Commerce Director-General John Longworth said. “For business, it is a choice between remaining in a largely unchanged EU, albeit with some potential new safeguards for the U.K., or a future outside the EU, with the near-term uncertainty and disruption of leaving.”
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