The 2013/05/10 at 08:20
Stéphanie Salti, in London
British enterprises are no longer prepared to accept the status quo from the European Union. According to a survey carried out by the body representing British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) amongst some 4,400 enterprises of all sizes, a large majority now support the idea of renegotiating their nation’s relationship with the European Union. This survey, carried out between the end of Feburary and the start of March, follows up the speech of the British Prime Minister David Cameron on Europe, delivered on 23 January 2013, in which he opened the way towards the organisation, following the general elections in 2015 but no later than 2017, a referendum on maintaining Britain in a European Union where the country intends to first renegotiate its role.
The BCC presented five scenarios, asking enterprises to express their views on each. Supported by around 64 % of the enterprises surveyed, renegotiation seems to stand out on the employment front, with 54 % of enterprises deploring Britain’s being subject to European employment law, considered to be too rigid. For almost one half of the surveyed parties (46 %), renegotiation should also allow competences to be redistributed to London’s side in the domains of health and security. Finally, regional development policies could also benefit from a transfer of power from Brussels to the British capital, according to one-third of the enterprises surveyed.
To a lesser extent, enterprises also seem to wish for a new balance of competences in the domain of justice and internal affairs. On the other hand, enterprises do not wish Britain to exit the European Union, for the impact would be negative in the opinion of 60 % of the surveyed enterprises. The possibility of increased integration is viewed just as poorly by the British business community: 48% of the enterprises surveyed think that this scenario could have a negative impact, while 17 % are continuing to weigh up the pros and cons. “These results say a lot about the UK business community’s attitudes towards Britain’s relationship with the European Union,” comments John Longworth, Director General of the BCC. “Companies believe that renegotiation, rather than further integration or outright withdrawal, is most likely to deliver business and economic benefit to the UK.”
While the idea of renegotiating competences is making its way through British enterprises, political authorities still remain divided about the eventuality of a referendum: the Conservatives as well as the Labour Party are hostile to the idea. Other European countries also showed scepticism about the hypothesis of renegotiating the UK-EU relationship when the British Prime Minister made his speech. A dossier yet to be resolved.