THE leaders of more than 50 industrial firms employing 7m people across Europe have signed a letter saying the EU will be stronger if the UK remains a member.
The European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT) – which includes the CEOs of BP, Shell, AkzoNobel, BASF, Solvay, Rio Tinto, ABB, and Siemens – said in an open letter entitled Why Europe Matters that an unravelling of the European single market and the rules governing its 28 member countries would reduce prosperity.
“We believe that a Europe without the UK would be weaker, just as the UK itself would be weaker outside Europe,” the letter reads.
A public referendum will be held on 23 June to decide whether the UK should remain in the EU or leave it. Those campaigning to leave argue that the UK can secure more tailored trade deals with non-EU members, spend the money saved on EU membership for scientific research and new industries, and take back control of the likes of employment, immigration, and health and safety law.
Those pushing for the UK to remain in the EU have argued that leaving will see an increase in trade tariffs, and by being on the outside the UK will no longer have a say over product regulations that exporting companies must comply with. Furthermore, they warn that by standing alone, the UK diminishes its power to negotiate deals with non-EU countries.
The ERT reasons that the EU has been a force for positive social and economic change, pointing to an increase in average prosperity and that liberalised markets for energy and telecoms have boosted competition and efficiency.
The group accepts that the EU “certainly needs to be improved” but argues that no single member state can address the key challenges around lowering carbon emissions and improving security.
In February, around 200 leaders of UK businesses including those that run around one third of the FTSE 100 wrote a letter to The Times backing the UK to stay in the EU. In March, the official Vote Leave campaign published a letter signed by leaders of 250 smaller UK businesses, saying the EU might be good for large multinational firms but is a hindrance for SMEs.
Others that have commented on the referendum include trade credit insurance firm Euler Hermes which warned in March that the UK chemicals sector could lose as much as £7bn/y – or 14% of current value – if the decision is taken to leave. A survey of IChemE members in March found that 75% plan to vote to keep the UK in the EU, with 23% opting to leave and 2% abstaining.
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