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UK businesses 'want Europe renegotiation'

05/08/13

The latest report from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has suggested that UK businesses want to renegotiate their relationship with the EU, with the vast majority supporting the concept of a referendum on membership of the pan-European body.

However, some 43 per cent want negotiations to run their course before any move is made, with only 34 per cent calling for a vote in the years coming up to 2017.

And there is not widespread support for leaving the EU altogether - 61.4 per cent suggested that remaining part of the coalition but transferring certain powers from Westminster to Brussels would be the most desirable outcome.

"Our quarterly survey shows that businesses reject both the Europhile dream of further integration and the Europhobe dream of a complete exit from the EU, provided a satisfactory renegotiation is achieved," said BCC director-general John Longworth.

For finance professionals working in the commerce and industry sector, business relationships with the EU have both positive and negative points.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) recently urged the European body to get its house in order with regard to its financial regulation, which it feels is insufficiently clear.

Regional director for Europe Martin Manuzi argued that EU governments need more qualified finance professionals in place so they can make business-focused, positive decisions on these matters.

Although the BCC's report suggests that UK businesses are keen on a 'halfway-house' type relationship with Europe, such as that enjoyed by countries like Norway and Switzerland, there are concerns that this would not be a viable option for the country.

The CBI pointed out that the Scandinavian nation has major financial commitments without any real sway, while Switzerland also has no formal channels to influence the EU.

Katja Hall, the CBI's chief policy director, told the Financial Times that the terms of the debate now need to centre around how the EU can be improved and reformed to offer the best opportunities for financial expansion and growth.

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