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Our Biggest Market campaign launched

July 1, 2013 11:46 AM
By Peter Wilding in British Influence EuropeWatch
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Our Biggest MarketIn a week when Europe returns to the political agenda, today we launch 'Our Biggest Market' a campaign to bring together the job-creating small businesses from around the country and give voice to their belief that Britain must get stuck into, not opt out of, creating a reformed, competitive Europe in order to create the growth and jobs the country needs.

Europe is engaged in a battle of ideas where Britain is in a great position - with friends - to ensure the EU and the continental economy are reformed. The Dutch government said the time for ever closer union had come to an end. The German government wants to reform the EU and liberalise the European economy.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has founded a reform-focussed 'like-minded' group of allied ministers to drive change. The Prime Minister's own manifesto for reform of last year - echoed by the Business for New Europe Manifesto for Reform also launched today - got the support of 18 heads of government. Even the American government calls for a strong Britain in a strong Europe. So here, we say, is British influence at work and a new alliance for change in Europe.

But the fact is that it is sometimes difficult for the public to see how all this works for them. They may know that being part of the single market gives UK business access to the world's largest trading bloc, worth £11 trillion.

They may know that around 3.5 million jobs in the UK are linked, directly or indirectly, to trade with the EU. They may know that UK firms have trebled the amount of trade they have with European businesses since 1992 and that in 2011 nearly half of our exports, worth £246 billion, went to mainland Europe.

They may know, as ministers and shadow ministers from Ken Clarke to Emma Reynolds and Vince Cable have said, that current EU trade negotiations are opening up new markets for British companies to grow, as well as improving existing ones; including talks between Europe and India, Europe and Japan, Europe and Canada and between Europe and the US: the biggest prize of all and alone worth between £4-10 billion annually for Britain.

But how is all this important for every day people's lives? How does it convert into street level reality? The City and big business are important for UK plc and often understand Europe implicitly, but jobs and growth linked to single market trade also come through the supply chain and from the SME sector; and this is the sector that impacts on people's daily lives and on the social fabric of Britain.

British Influence carried out some focus groups. The result was that small and medium-sized business leaders - particularly those leading companies that "make things" - held great sway in their local communities, they were seen as important opinion formers. These are people who local media will report. They are trusted and valued local employers, leaders and wealth creators.

Sometimes the small business community has been mis-reported as being hostile to the EU. A myth has sprung up that Europe is good for big business but not good for small business. This is one of the myths that Our Biggest Market was launched to dispell. And here is is what some business leaders have told us already:

Dr. Jonathan Williams, CEO of Marine South East, based in Southampton, said: "If we didn't have access to that Single Market, I think it would make it much more difficult for British marine tech companies to justify their investment in innovation."

Stuart Broome, CEO of Sub 10 Systems, an electronics manufacturing company in Newton Abbot, said: "The EU-US trade discussions that are about to take place are beneficial to us as a company based in the UK, as will allows us to sell our products more easily into America."

Ashok Kallumpram, Managing Director of Premier Textiles, a Stockport-based importer of yarns and fabrics, said. "The importance of access to the European market for us is absolutely crucial."

Martin Barker, Managing Director of Rowan Precision, a West Midlands high-tech manufacturer, said: "The opportunity the single market brings for export and trade is absolutely second to none."

Phil Elliott, Managing Director of Booth Dispensers, a Blackpool-based equipment manufacturer said: "It is a lot easier to do business in Europe than anywhere else in the world for a UK manufacturer."

Our Biggest Market is a campaign for this core community.

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