Approval of Juncker Commission clears the way for a new push to reform the EU

Business for New Europe, the business group that makes the positive economic case for EU membership, today commented on the approval by the European Parliament of the new European Commission, including Lord Hill as Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union.

Members of the European Parliament voted with 423 in favour of the proposed commissioners, 209 against and 67 abstaining.
Alisdair McIntosh, Director of Business for New Europe, said:
“This is good news, and sets the stage for both the UK and the EU to implement reform to create growth and jobs. The Commission now has a very strong team, a mandate for change from the European Council and both the commitment and the capability to improve the way the EU works. The new Commission features four former Prime Ministers and 16 former ministers. For example, Dutch former foreign minister Frans Timmermans has been made First Vice-President with a specific mandate to tackle over-regulation with the power of veto. This vote by MEPs endorses the vision of Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the Commission, who is streamlining EU structures to focus on results.
“The vote also approves the appointment of Lord Hill, which sends a positive message about the level of British influence and engagement in Brussels. Appointing a commissioner proposed by Britain to head up the financial services portfolio shows Jean-Claude Juncker’s willingness to respond to British concerns.
“It is also significant that Lord Hill is being specifically charged with developing capital markets union, which would encourage non-bank sources of finance for companies and help capital flow across national borders. This would help SMEs in particular across the EU to access finance, grow and create jobs.
“Now the crew is on board, it’s time to get the boat moving. The Commission must prioritise the completion of the single market, especially in services and the digital sector, reduce the regulatory burden on business and effectively negotiate free trade deals, in particular the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which would boost EU trade with the USA. This could be worth as much as £10 billion a year for the UK alone.”

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Politicians need to lead from the front, not shout from the back

Business for New Europe today responded to polling by Ipsos MORI showing that 56% of people would vote to stay in the EU, with just 36% in favour of leaving. The full poll is available under this link.

Alisdair McIntosh, Director of Business for New Europe, said:

“Many of the public recognise the important economic benefits of staying within the EU. Politicians are mistaken if they think people just want to hear ever-louder eurosceptic rhetoric, especially at a time of economic and political uncertainty. This only increases cynicism about the major political parties.

“Politicians need to lead from the front, not shout from the back. They need to set the agenda, and reflect the importance of EU membership to business and the economy. The way to promote prosperity in Britain is to secure realistic reforms of the EU.

"The government should fight for the reforms that matter most – those that will create growth and jobs. It should prioritise finishing the Single Market, especially in services, and make it fit for the digital age. Pushing for free trade deals with the US, Japan and other major players, and streamlining regulation to become more efficient, are also vital. These are the European reforms that will make the most difference for Britain."

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Business for New Europe comments on Michael Moore MP's proposals to improve EU business

"A new Europe Business Minister could be a real step forward but they must be able to “knock heads together” in Whitehall" 
- Alisdair McIntosh, Director of Business for New Europe.

Business for New Europe, the business group that makes the positive economic case for EU membership, today commented on the report by Michael Moore MP, who is EU Business Adviser to Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister.

The report, titled Doing Business Across Europe: A new Engagement, sets out proposals to make the UK’s engagement with the European Union more beneficial for the UK economy. The report can be found here:

Business for New Europe particularly welcomed the proposal to introduce a Europe Business Minister, so long as the individual has the authority and ability to make changes happen.

Alisdair McIntosh, Director of Business for New Europe, said:

“Implementing the recommendations in this report would send a reassuring message that the government is serious about delivering on a positive UK business agenda for the EU.    

“In particular, the creation of a new Europe Business Minister could be a real step forward. But they must be a substantial figure with credibility in the business community, and be able to knock heads together in Whitehall.

“Business wants to see evidence that the government is giving priority to the EU reforms that matter most: those that will create jobs and growth. They want clarity on the business reform agenda, and commitment that it will be pursued with single-minded focus and energy.

“This is far more important than the increasingly strident rhetoric about immigration. Many politicians are paying too much attention to the short-term politics of EU reform, and too little to the economics or practicalities. Michael Moore’s report, in contrast, is a welcome step in the right direction.”

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Business for New Europe comments on EU referendum bill

"When politicians treat EU membership as a political football in Westminster, they put jobs at risk across the country"
- Alisdair McIntosh, Director of Business for New Europe

Business for New Europe, the business group which makes the positive economic case for EU membership, today commented on the EU referendum bill which is having its second reading in the House of Commons.

This private members' bill seeks to ensure a referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017 no matter which party wins the forthcoming general election.

Alisdair McIntosh, Director of Business for New Europe, said:

"The prospect of an EU referendum would make it harder for companies to plan and invest for the future by creating uncertainty. For honourable reasons, many business leaders do not want to express political views on whether or not there should be a referendum, but they do face real and practical challenges as a result of the uncertainty.

Whether Britain stays in the EU is a vital economic issue, not just a political one.  Leaving the EU would damage our economy, making it harder for our companies to compete internationally. It would also make it very difficult for Britain to influence policies in our most important export market. We would lose out to other European nations if we left the EU.

We would also fall out of trade deals around the world, and lose investment and jobs across Britain.

Recent independent polling by YouGov found that 16% of people think that leaving the EU would make no difference to our economy, and 17% said they didn't know. This is, frankly, alarming. It is vital that people understand the full implications of this issue.

When politicians treat EU membership as a political football in Westminster, they put jobs at risk across the country".

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EU-Canada trade deal will boost UK growth and provides hope for the future

The signing today of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada will provide great opportunities for British business and further deliver growth and jobs in the UK, say business leaders. As well as eliminating 99% of tariffs, Canada has agreed to open up federal and provincial public procurement to a degree never before seen. The agreement will raise Canadian intellectual property standards closer to EU levels and, vitally, will liberalise trade in services, particuarly in finance, energy, telecommunications and transport. Canada and the UK have a close economic relationship, with £48 billion of Canadian investment in Britain and £30 billion going the other way. The EU as a whole exports £37 billion of goods and services to Canada every year, and recives £111 billion of Canadian foriegn direct investment.

"This excellent news underlines two key facts", said Business for New Europe Director Alisdair McIntosh. "Firstly, that the sheer size of the EU economy allows us to negotiate from a position of real strength. Secondly, that the UK has genuine influence inside the EU, for free trade has long been a British cause and we do more trade with Canada than any other member state".

The British government estimates that CETA will be worth an extra £2.3 billion a year to the UK economy, and could increase our exports to Canada by 29%. What business needs now is for both Brussels and member states to approve this agreement as quickly as possible, to allow business to take advantage of this exciting opportunity."

"Meanwhile, with EU negotiators currently in Washington working on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States, which could benefit Britain by as much as £10 billion a year, CETA shows that ambitious agreements are possible, and it provides a template for a European deal with the US".

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EU Membership is vital to the UK

BNE sets out the key facts on why British business and the British economy benefit from our EU membership


New Commission line-up reflects British priorities

The new Commission line-up announced this morning shows a determination to focus on British priorities of growth, reform and efficiency, according to business leaders, and gives the critical financial services brief to the UK's Jonathan Hill. Jean-Clause Juncker's decision to create powerful new Vice-Presidents for growth and competitiveness, better regulation and budget, while reducing the numbers of seperate portfolios and Commission departments, sent a clear message of intent, said Business for New Europe. The crucial financial services brief has been given to the UK's Jonathan Hill, which should both allay City concerns and play to UK strengths; and the idea of creating a new full-time Eurogroup president has been shelved. 

BNE chairman Roland Rudd said: "This line-up shows that Juncker is serious about reform. Reducing the number of portfolios and departments will help streamline the Commission. Creating a new Vice-President for better regulation and giving the job to Frans Timmermans, who has been a tireless champion for subsidiarity, is a very good move. And giving the financial services brief to Jonathan Hill, together with capital markets union and financial stability, is clearly good news for the UK and plays to London's strengths".

"Overall, the new commission line-up, with five former Prime Ministers and a further dozen former Ministers, is a strong team to deliver the reforms that business wants to see- and that Juncker has committed to deliver. We are impatient for them to get on with the job".

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Business needs UK to use our influence in Brussels; sceptics want us to lose it

Claims that Eurosceptic Tory MPs will pledge to vote no in an EU referendum whatever reforms the UK secures, and that the UK lacks influence in Brussels and Strasbourg, sell Britain short, according to business leaders. 

Commenting on recent press reports about Britain's influence in the EU, Alisdair McIntosh, Director of BNE, said:

"The interests of business, and of the UK as a whole, are ill-served by eurosceptics talking down our voice in the EU or saying that no reform will overcome their hostility to Europe.

On any view, the UK remains a highly influential member of the European Union. UK calls for reforms to make Europe more competitive and outward-looking have increasingly been taken up by other members of the European Council, and even by Jean-Clause Juncker- a fact the sceptics conveniently ignore. The appointment of Donald Tusk as the new President of the European Council is a further step forward, given his commitment to reform.

Now it is suggested that some Tory rebels are planning to join Ukip in pledging to vote for UK exit in any referendum whatever reforms are achieved: an approach which is as transparently destructive as it is ideological.

The British Chambers of Commerce survey published today shows that most UK companies want to see reform: it also shows a clear majority in favour of the UK's continuing membership. Other recent surveys show that even more emphatically. Business wants the government and UK MPs and MEPs to put their efforts into delivering that change."

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Brexit would be economically disastrous, and threatening to leave won't achieve reform

The claims by Boris Johnson’s chief economic adviser, Gerard Lyons, that the UK could be better off if it left the EU are plain wrong, warn business leaders. 

Staying in the EU is better than leaving. Here’s why:

    • Free access to European Single Market is worth up to £80 billion year to the UK  economy, according to the CBI, and  supports millions of jobs across the country
    • EU membership has expanded UK trade in goods  with the rest of Europe by 55 per cent
    • The City alone is home to some 250 foreign banks employing upwards of 160,000 people.  Many of them would simply not be here if the UK were not in the EU
    • If we were not in the EU, we would not have the same leverage to secure free trade deals with other countries.  The recent EU-South Korea agreement will save UK exporters £500 million a year; the EU-US deal currently under discussion could be worth £10 billion a year to the UK, and could increase jobs in the UK’s car industry by 7 per cent
    • Membership of the EU also gives the UK greater influence on the world stage to defend our strategic interests, and to deal more effectively with political crises like the Ukraine
    • All the alternatives to EU membership would deliver fewer benefits, at a high price

Where business leaders do agree with London’s Mayor is that the UK can and should push for the EU to reform, so that the benefits of membership are even greater. Where business leaders disagree, is the best way to achieve the reforms we all want. 

Responding to press coverage of Lyons’ report, to be published tomorrow, BNE chairman Roland Rudd said:

‘We agree with Boris Johnson that the UK should push for better than the status quo, and we agree with many of the reforms that Boris would like to see to make Europe more dynamic, competitive and outward-looking.  But the question is how best to achieve them.   
‘The plain fact is that leaving the EU would make Britain worse off.  So a strategy based on issuing threats is very dangerous. It is also very unlikely to work. It didn’t work in 2011, when we stood on the sidelines and failed to block new rules on financial services.  It failed again last month, when we tried to block Juncker from becoming Commission President.’

‘Instead, we need to relearn the word ‘diplomacy’.  We need to work with our European allies, make the case, and build wider support.  We have done this in recent years – for example, in limiting the EU  budget - and we can do so again, despite the damage we have caused by issuing threats.’

An approach like this has a real chance of success; it would make the EU much better for us all; and it won’t damage the UK’s national interest.  The alternative, saying we will leave if we don’t get what we want, is a recipe for protracted uncertainty and ultimate failure.’

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Government should do more to increase the number of Brits in EU institutions

The government should do more to increase the number of Brits in EU institutions if it wants to maintain UK influence and secure reforms.

Business leaders expressed concern about the imminent fall in the number of British officials in senior posts in the EU institutions, reported in an analysis by the British Bankers Association [footnote the report].

The UK has enjoyed considerable influence in the European institutions and has had many successes in shaping policy in Brussels.  But this is now at risk and needs urgently to be addressed, according to Business for New Europe.  

Specifically, the UK Government should:

-       Make a period of secondment to Brussels a career requirement for progression to senior levels in the UK civil service, and to all posts with significant European responsibilities

-       Increase the resources at the UK mission in Brussels devoted to getting Britons into the institutions and helping to get them into key positions 

-       Invest more in training UK graduates for  the  entrance  exams for the institutions

-       Strengthen networks among UK universities to increase awareness of European opportunities and support talent-spotting

Roland Rudd, chairman of Business  for New Europe, said: ‘The

UK has a strong historic record of influence in Brussels.  But unless the UK Government acts now  to tackle the impeding fall in senior posts, and develop  a pipeline of future talent,  it will be harder for the  UK  to maintain the  strength  of  its  presence, and secure the reforms that  we want to see. The Government should treat this as a key element in its positive European agenda’’.

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