What did business leaders make of the Prime Minister’s speech?

SIMON WALKER
Director general of the Institute of Directors

Free movement of goods and people is enormously important for the British economy, and we need to preserve that situation. At the same time, there are serious concerns about large amounts of costly regulation being introduced through unaccountable processes. A future referendum to decide the workings of our relationship is the best way to affirm Britain’s participation in a free-market Europe which is competitive and deregulated.

MARK BOLEAT
Policy chairman at the City of London corporation

We support the Prime Minister’s stated goal of keeping the UK within the European Union – albeit on better terms. London’s position as Europe’s leading international financial and business centre is crucial to sustaining jobs and growth not just in the UK but across the continent. Uncertainty over this relationship with Europe risks making the UK less attractive as an international centre across many industries by making it more difficult to make long-term investment decisions.

TERRY SCUOLER
Chief executive of the EEF organisation for UK manufacturers

The Prime Minister’s commitment to reshape the EU from within and his ambition to secure a better deal for Britain is right. But this strategy is not without risk. If the door to a UK exit from the union is open it will diminish our ability to influence the reforms that Europe needs. It is far from certain, moreover, that the outcome of negotiations will be clear cut, meaning that greater uncertainty about UK membership – particularly for business, will prevail.

MATS PERSSON
Director of Open Europe, a think tank calling for EU reform 

Polling has consistently shown that the British electorate want a better, looser relationship with the EU – rather than a Brixit or the status quo – if that’s on offer. David Cameron has outlined a clear course towards precisely the type of slimmed down Europe that most people and MPs in his party have been calling for. European partners who feared an imminent dawn raid on Brussels will be relieved. He has set out a plausible and powerful case for EU reform and should get a fair hearing in national capitals.

JOHN WALKER
National chairman, Federation of Small Businesses

The Federation of Small Businesses remains neutral on the issue of being in or out of the European Union, but recognises there is more certainty going forward to 2017-18. Nearly a quarter of FSB members export and the vast majority do so within the European Economic Area. Generally FSB members find it easier to trade with other EU countries, especially first time exporters. Governments around the world need to do all they can to keep markets open and take barriers away.