British business leaders have made it clear they want their nation to remain an integral part of the European Union. They said leaving the bloc would be a disaster, but the EU had to undergo thorough reforms.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on Monday intensified its campaign to keep the UK in a reformed European Union, pointing out that continued membership was overwhelmingly in the country's interest.
At the start of its national conference in London, Britain's biggest employers' group estimated that membership was worth between 62 billion pounds ($99 billion, 73 billion euros) and 78 billion pounds, amounting to four to five percent of the nation's total output.
"We have looked beyond the political rhetoric to examine to pros and cons of EU membership and British business is unequivocal - the single market is fundamental to out future," CBI Director General John Cridland argued.
Direct market access
The campaign comes as divided public opinion over Europe poses one of the biggest obstacles to Prime Minister David Cameron (pictured) winning a second term in 2015. He has pledged to win back some powers from Brussels and then put the new terms of Britain's membership to the public in an in-or-out referendum by the end of 2017.
The CBI emphasized 78 percent of the firms it surveyed favored staying in the EU, with 10 percent preferring to leave. The employers' group admitted a series of reforms were needed to convince euro skeptics, such as the removal of barriers to e-commerce and a revision of the bloc's working-time directive.
"We're better off in a reformed EU than outside with no influence," Cridland remarked. The CBI stressed membership gave Britain unhampered access to a market of almost 500 million people and had consolidated the position of London as one of the world's top financial centers.
hg/jlw (Reuters, AFP)