Membership of the European Union (EU) has long been a contentious topic in the UK, and two opposing views have come to the fore this week which are shaping the argument for Eurosceptics and EU supporters alike.
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Digby Jones, a former Trade Minister and former Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (one of the UK’s leading independent employers’ organisations), advised UK Prime Minister David Cameron to accelerate his proposed 2017 referendum on EU membership.
He said the Prime Minister’s current pledge to renegotiate the treaty with Brussels would only achieve “minor adjustments” to its regulations.
In addition, he called the EU a “job destroyer.”
His comments contrast with the current views of his former employer CBI – which issued a strong case for the UK remaining in the EU – and Japanese car manufacturer Nissan.
Nissan to “reconsider” investment if UK exits
The car giant has stated it would “reconsider” any future UK investments if the country left the EU.
The comments were made during the launch of the manufacturer’s new Qashqai model. CEO Carlos Ghosn noted, “if anything has to change we [would] need to reconsider our strategy and our investments for the future.”
The car model is to be assembled at Nissan’s Sunderland site in the UK, which currently employs 6,500 workers.
This is not the first time Nissan has warned Britain about a possible exit, with Toshiyuki Shiga, the firm’s Chief Operating Officer, saying the move would be an “obstacle” for future investment.
The story so far
The mounting debate over Britain’s membership of the EU comes as MPs prepare to vote on a referendum in 2017 if the Conservative Party wins the next general election.
Many politicians and public figures are arguing that the EU has become an unaccountable and undemocratic alliance with too many separate powers.
Essentially, they perceive the EU as too great a body to legislate, and that power should be given back to Westminster.
In addition, they argue the right to the free labour movement between the 27 states whilst the UK is suffering a recession is damaging the economy – as is the fact British taxes are being used to bail out other EU countries rather than receive goods and services.
Those in favour of the withdrawal include British National Party leader Nick Griffin, News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch, entrepreneur Theo Paphitis, and Minister for International Security Strategy Sir Gerald Howarth.
Those against argue that an exit from the EU would isolate the country’s economy.
If Britain exits the EU yet remains in the European Free Trade Area or European Economic Area, it would have to continue abiding by EU Laws centering on the internal market – but no longer enjoy influence over their formation.
According to the British Government, 1.4 million British nationals have currently exercised their right to live, work or study in the EU, which would be revoked if Britain left the EU and the European Economic Area.
Lastly, reports by the European Commission suggest the European single market brings between £30 billion to £90 billion into the British economy – and if Britain could not negotiate a free trade agreement after its exit from the EU – this would collapse.
Those opposing the UK’s exit include David Cameron, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, and the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
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