Just under a year ago, Ed Miliband gave a speech to the CBI stating that it was clearly in Britain’s interests to remain in the European Union.
And I wrote shortly afterwards that it was time for UK businesses to “stand up and be counted” on this. Quiet words of concern to business associates around the dinner table were not enough.
To be fair, a number of business leaders have done just that; Richard Branson , Nissan’s boss Toshiyuki Shiga, the chairmen of BT, Deloitte, Lloyds and Centrica have all, very publicly, made it clear that for Britain to leave would leave us worse off. Eight out of ten British manufacturers support staying in, as does the finance industry.
Now, a year after the Labour Leader spoke to the CBI about our membership of the EU, the UK’s most influential business organisation has produced a report which puts some more detailed flesh on the bones of the argument for why we have to stay in.
And it is a body blow to those in the Tory Party and UKIP who want to leave the European Union.
The conclusions of the CBI report could not be clearer. Stating that “membership of the EU’s single market remains fundamental to our economic future,” the report confirms that 8 out of 10 CBI members– including 77% of SMEs – would vote for the UK to remain a member of the EU in a referendum if held tomorrow.
And perhaps most crucially they put a figure on just how much this country gains through being a member of a 500 million-strong market.
The net benefit arising from EU membership, according to the report, is “somewhere in the region of 4–5% of UK GDP or between ￡62bn and ￡78bn per year.” On average, this means that each household benefits from EU membership “to the tune of nearly ￡3,000 a year – with every individual in the UK around ￡1,225 better off.”
Interestingly, this is towards the top end of estimates made in a separate report a couple of years ago, and published on the website of the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BiS). As I reported in an earlier blog, the BiS report assessed British households as being between £1100 and £3300 per year better off; that’s between £457 and £1373 for every man, woman and child in Britain.
This growing body of powerful evidence means it’s becoming almost impossible now to make any valid economic case for Britain to leave the EU. That won’t shut up the Eurosceptic right, but their outrageous claims about the cost of the EU are no longer going unchallenged.
As the CBI report states: “There are direct budgetary costs to EU membership, but the net costs are less extensive than often reported and the price of membership is well worth the overall benefits secured.”