Business has a patriotic duty to speak out on the economic benefits of the EU

Douglas Alexander
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We simply cannot afford to see Britain on the conveyor belt to exit (Source: Getty)
As Labour, we believe that the prospect of Britain leaving the EU poses the biggest risk to British national prosperity in a generation. That is why Labour will continue to make the case for reform in Europe, not exit from Europe.

This is a campaign that unites all of us who know that we simply cannot afford to see Britain on the conveyor belt to exit.

That is why, today, I am making a direct appeal to the quiet majority of concerned British businesses across the country.

The starting gun on the campaign to keep Britain in Europe has already been fired, and Britain now needs you to join in the race.

I know that Labour and the business community will not always agree about everything. But this is an issue that should transcend party politics. It is about patriotic duty and good business sense.

You understand better than anyone that, if we left Europe, then the US, China, and the rest of the EU would be in the negotiating room and the UK would be left in the waiting room.

The single market – of over 500m people – benefits consumers and businesses here in the UK more than any single aspect of our national industrial policy or bilateral trade policy. According to CBI estimates, the net benefit to UK GDP of membership is around 4-5 per cent – between £62bn and £78bn.

And since its inception, foreign direct investment flows into the EU have doubled, helping to make the UK a more attractive destination for global investment. The EU drives competition, attracts investment and creates jobs.

So I believe that those advocating Britain’s place in Europe must once again – as at its inception – focus on the economic case for membership.

That is why Labour will set out the economic benefits of our EU membership and work to restore the public’s faith in Europe’s ability to deliver them, through a credible economic reform agenda.

That is also why protecting the integrity and functioning of the single market will be a priority for the next Labour government, including in the face of potential further Eurozone integration.

Despite the obvious benefits it brings, I don’t deny that for businesses it can, at times, feel tough to be the ones speaking out for Britain’s place in Europe.

Perhaps you think that it can wait until the moment of decision. That was certainly the revealed preference of some business leaders in the Scottish referendum campaign that I witnessed first-hand over the summer.

But I want to urge you against this approach. The work begins now. Now is the time to speak out. Because you know what is most at stake. You know what we have to lose.

Your voice must be heard. Because if you wait, it could be too late.

The risk of exit is real. And so too is the responsibility on business to find its voice and make the case with authority and passion, that the right road for Britain is not exit from Europe but reform within Europe.