EU: Why a vote to remain is a vote for a stronger, safer and better off Britain

With Brexit debates hotting up, Innocent Drinks co-founder Richard Reed argues the case for Britain's small businesses being 'Stronger In' the EU...

For centuries Britain has been a powerful trading nation with a dynamic economy at the centre of European and world affairs. That’s how we’ve become the strong, proud, prosperous country we are today.

That’s why the choice facing us in the EU referendum is the biggest we’ve ever had to make.

We have to ask ourselves whether we want Britain to remain part of Europe and keep all the benefits of more jobs, lower prices and safer streets – or whether we risk going it alone.

See also: BREXIT – Should we stay or should we go?

Of course the European Union isn’t perfect. No partnership is. That is why we always need to argue for reform, now, tomorrow and into the future.

Being a member of a larger group always involves some compromise. But the fact is we are stronger, safer and better off in Europe than we would be out of it. The benefits of being in clearly outweigh the alternative.

The EU gives businesses full access to the Single Market

Companies of all sizes benefit from our membership of the EU through all the trade, investment and funding they get as a part of a partnership. Full access to the Single Market is vital for UK exporters, and the ability to have a seat at the table when rules are written means the UK’s voice is central to the future direction of our continent.

The EU is our largest customer, with the continent buying almost half of what we sell to the rest of the world. In 2014 alone, we sold £229bn worth of goods and services to EU countries. There are 200,000 businesses that engage in goods trade alone with the EU, whilst 75% of UK businesses that trade goods internationally do so with the European Union. Independent analysis shows that 3.1 to 4 million jobs are linked to trade with the EU – around one in 10 British jobs.

The EU free trade agreements give businesses better access to all markets

UK businesses also benefit from better access to markets outside the EU through free trade agreements that the EU has with countries around the world. 64% of UK goods trade takes place with EU countries and countries with which the EU has free trade agreements. If you add in the countries with which the EU is negotiating future deals takes the share to 80%. This is hugely significant for British business.

The EU opens up more investment opportunities

The EU is also the largest source of investment for the UK too, accounting for 48% of the stock of foreign direct investment in the UK. Over the past decade we have benefitted from investment of £24bn a year on average, which is over £66m per day. Access to larger markets allows UK businesses to increase productivity growth, with exporting firms accounting for 60% of UK productivity growth.

Thanks partly to pressure from the UK, the EU is extending the single market to new fields, such as digital, and pursuing major new trade deals with further countries around the world, including the US.

All of this provides so much opportunity for business – particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups who gain from a single market which boosts the UK economy and makes exporting and business across Europe easier.

The EU has introduced a number of business-specific programmes

There are also the specific programmes which have been designed with both small businesses and start-ups in mind.

Take the European Social Fund (ESF), which helps British small enterprising by improving the UK workforce and giving assistance to small businesses. From 2007-2013, ESF funding for England was €3bn which was funnelled into the creation of apprenticeships as well as training for managers and employees in small businesses and easing the entrance of migrants into employment.

Plus, there’s the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme – the biggest ever EU research and innovation programme for universities and small businesses with a budget of £57bn running from 2014-2020.

The EU is helping to develop Britain’s digital and tech sectors

Tech companies of all sizes are also set to benefit greatly from the EU’s digital single market. A complete Digital Single Market could boost EU GDP by over £300bn; a point recognised by former Google boss Eric Schmidt who, at the end of last year, said that EU membership helps Britain build its e-commerce.

Schmidt’s advice has been echoed by a host of bodies and big businesses who have issued warnings in recent weeks and months about the impact of leaving the EU on the UK.

They cite that the UK could suffer lower growth, higher inflation, Sterling depreciation, lost tax revenues and a downgrading of our credit rating all as a result of walking away from Europe.

That would not be good for small enterprises, start-ups, big business or anyone who cares about the future prosperity of the UK.

The EU: A vote to remain

On June 23 we have a generation-defining decision to make. To vote to remain is to vote for a stronger, safer and better off Britain that delivers opportunity for businesses and individuals and families, now and in the future.

To vote to leave is to take a leap into the dark, risking a weaker economy, the prospects of future generations, and a loss of influence for businesses of all sizes on the world stage.

To find out more about the Britain Stronger In campaign, please visit: www.strongerin.co.uk/businesses

For the counter argument from Vote Leave, click here.

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