By The Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP, Minister without Portfolio and Co-President of British Influence, the cross-party campaign on Europe
EEF has published a definitive report declaring that membership of the European Union is ‘unequivocally' in the best interests of the British economy and British manufacturers.This is a significant contribution to the debate about Britain's future in Europe. The challenge which will define the current political generation is that of getting our economy back to sustainable, healthy growth after the longest, deepest recession since the war. The jobs, skills and wealth which manufacturers generate have an absolutely fundamental role to play in this, and ensuring that Government is doing everything it can to help the sector grow and export is utterly key.We would be foolish not to listen to the EEF when they say that British membership of the Single Market helps, not hinders our efforts to boost exports. In an extraordinarily clear reposte to those who suggest that somehow our trading relationships with other developing markets would be improved if we were to come out of the Single Market, the EEF point out that trade does not work in such an “either/or” fashion. UK manufacturers will frequently seek to increase their market share in Europe as well as looking at growth opportunities in other parts of the world - Germany, one of the world's most dynamic export economies, is a past master at this. Equally, the EU is a vital market for first time exporters, who can then use this experience as a jumping off point for the Brazils and Chinas of this world. And even under a pessimistic growth scenario, by 2020 the EU will still account for around 17% of global output, a shade lower than the US.The EEF also highlight important areas in which the EU must reform: too much regulation, inefficient decision-making and too little focus on competitiveness. This is an important agenda which the Prime Minister is leading, with allies, within Europe. It means completing the Single Market, a systematic attack on red tape, and pressing ahead with the trade pacts like the EU-US deal that is worth £10 billion per annum to the UK alone. Done right, the potential prize for the UK, let alone the EU as a whole, is worth billions of pounds.In short, this is a report which makes exceedingly clear that it is wholly in the interest of British companies, and of British citizens that we remain an active, outward-facing, influential, cajoling voice in the EU and on the wider international stage. I have said it before, and I will say it again: disengagement is simply not the answer.