It’s a new year and could it be a new direction for Britain – moving away from Europe?
The UK’s possible ending of its membership of the EU – the Brexit to use the jargon phrase – will be one of the most hotly debated topics in the parliamentary election there in May.
Support for the anti-Europe UK Independence Party has forced the centre-right Conservatives – currently in power in a coalition – to promise a referendum on Britain staying in, if they’re reelected.
The idea of Britain quitting is strongly rejected by many business people like Will Butler-Adams, the boss of internationally successful bicycle maker Brompton, who says EU membership is a big plus: “It means doing trade is easy, it means less paperwork. We do lots of trade in lots of parts of the world where it is a complete pain. And not having that frustration, that disorganisation, that different pricing in different countries within our largest trading partners is a real positive.”
But he does understand why many Britons don’t want to stay in the EU: “The problem is there are plenty of examples of spectacular wastes of money and huge inefficiencies and of course people get frustrated with that.”
Some investors are also worried about the effects of Britain leaving the EU.
They fear it would harm the City of London’s financial services industry.
Justin Urquhart Stewart from Seven Investment Management said: “If we left it would really rather bad for the city of London. We may not like the way the EU operates, but if you want to change a club you’ve got to be part of that club. Otherwise all you are going to be doing is encouraging people to do the business inside the club but without us.”
He asks: “Why would you give up a seat at the top table of the largest trading bloc in the world?”
Business lobby groups point out the EU is Britain’s biggest export market and say reform not an exit is what is needed.