None of the alternatives are better than single market, non-EU business groups warn

 
Mark Sands
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Will business groups be as cheery as Nigel Farage if the UK votes to leave the EU next week? (Source: Getty)

Business groups from across the world have warned that the UK's current access to the single market beats all alternatives.

In a report issued by the Confederation of British Industry, groups representing firms in Albania, Norway, Switzerland and Canada – all cited by Leave campaigners as models for potential alternatives – have said the UK currently enjoys a superior system.

Albania currently enjoys limited free trade with the EU, while both Norway and Switzerland participates through the European Free Trade Association, while Canada is close to a deal giving it free trade access.

However, Albania is unable to passport financial services into the EU, while the EFTA nations are forced to accept free movement of people, and Canada, like many others outside the EU, has no influence over European regulation.

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “The Leave campaign has said we should be like Switzerland, Norway, Canada or even perhaps Albania – but all these countries say they’d rather be like the UK. They say that their models have big drawbacks, and that we already have the best deal.”

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Responding, Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott said: “The CBI’s unflinching support for Brussels is simply not credible. They have consistently called it wrong on the EU, ranging from support for joining the euro to opposition to a referendum and support for the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

“Now they want us to believe that we can’t take back control from Brussels and secure new trade deals.”

The CBI report sees contributions from BiznesAlbania and the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise, who both question why the UK would seek to terminate its existing relationships in the Single Market.

Similarly, Business Council of Canada president and chief executive John Manley said that Canada's own deal with the EU would not compare to the advantages of membership.

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And Economiesuisse director general Monika Rühl adds that Switzerland's relationship with the EU took 16 years to negotiate.

“I hope that in event of a Brexit you are not pinning your hopes on getting a deal quickly,” Ruhl said, adding that Swiss banks remain required to implement EU rules, without cross-border access for financial services.

“As a result, Swiss banks have had to open subsidiaries in London for cross border services in the EU market for investment banking and foreign exchange trading. London as a global hub for financial services might be challenged if the City would lose its direct access to the Single Market,” she said.

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