Business should demand that next week’s European Summit should settle the terms on which the referendum will be fought in June.
The year has begun badly with the markets jittery and talk of a new recession. There are uncertainties we can’t control in Europe like the Syrian war and oil prices but business should be demanding that the leaders of the EU finally settle Britain’s renegotiation next week so that we can end this tedious debate which is debilitating for business.
Although perhaps one is being naïve in thinking that the June referendum will end this debate. It will if we vote to leave but I fear a narrow vote to stay will result in Euro sceptics blaming an establishment conspiracy and vowing to fight on. Just look at the Scottish Referendum. That’s why this whole referendum idea was a bad idea and I suspect David Cameron agrees with me.
I’m sad to say the whole European project is facing the biggest crisis in its history with its poor handling of the refugee crisis, economic issues and Russian pressure in the East. To lose the UK would be a hammer blow and therefore it is to be hoped that the other 27 countries will not water down the terms that the Prime Minister has negotiated. They are modest, as I always knew they would be, and will be difficult to sell to the British people as it is. But if next week we see Cameron humiliated by an attempt to modify his new terms, then the chances of a vote to leave will grow further.
The temptation will be to put off a decision with the result that the referendum will have to be deferred to the autumn or beyond. That would be highly undesirable for business waiting to make vital investment decisions.
I remain nervous that we will vote to leave as the refugee crisis intensifies during the summer and the Murdoch dominated press continues to spew out its rubbish about the EU. However all is not lost. The disarray in the leave campaign is laughable. Vote Leave, Leave EU, and Grassroots Out are all squabbling with each other. That shows a truth about those that want us to become little islanders off the coast of Europe. Their mentality is to divide and argue whereas the European project is to unite to solve our mutual problems.
So let’s look at what Cameron has negotiated in a positive light. He has won recognition that the UK is not committed to an ever closer union. He has a renewed commitment to a more competitive Europe and protection from Euro Zone decisions. The issue of migrant benefits has assumed an importance to our whole continuation in the EU that it does not merit. However an emergency break and a four year curb will be possible with agreement and there would be lower repatriated child benefit for migrant parents living here.
So for business sake let’s hope the renegotiated terms are agreed next week and all those who believe our future lies within the EU can unite against the squabbling Euro sceptics.