25 Jul 2024


Most UK manufacturers want to stay in the EU

An overwhelming majority (85%) of British manufacturers believe that that the UK must remain part of the European Union, according to a survey of members of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation. The manufacturers say that EU membership is critical to exports, and that the economic benefits far outweigh concerns about regulation or the repatriation of powers.

Almost 90% of EEF members sell directly or indirectly to customers in the EU and three in five members say that the EU is key to their export strategies. If the UK left the EU, 37% of companies would make significant changes to their business plans, and a third say that they would be less likely to invest in the UK.

In a new report, Manufacturing: Our Future In Europe, EEF also reveals that three in five manufacturers believe that the government should focus on improving competitiveness across Europe rather than negotiating special deals or opt-outs for Britain. The report is based on consultation and research with EEF members ranging from small- and medium-sized companies to multinational corporate businesses.

In a letter to the leaders of the UK’s three main political parties, including Prime Minister David Cameron, EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler, says that Britain’s membership of the EU is central to businesses and their investment plans in the short and long-term.

“Britain must not gamble on its future in Europe,” Scuoler warns. “The stakes are enormous. It is naïve to think we can simply pull up the drawbridge and carry on as normal. The debate must move on to how we can make Europe work to support jobs, growth and higher living standards.

“We need to focus on the real prize: how we can get Europe to work better supporting companies that are looking to sell into the EU, to export to new markets in the rest of the world, and develop new products and services.

“We must be at the centre of the change we want to see in Europe, to help secure the prize and ensure we share in it,” Scuoler continues. “Billions of pounds of trading opportunities are at stake and we must keep the focus – and the wider debate – on these opportunities which will unleash growth in our economy now and in the longer term.

“The clear message from manufacturers, who employ millions in the UK, is that we must lead on this and play an active part in shaping the EU from within.”

EEF points out that the UK attracts more foreign investment than any other European country and that it benefited from £2.7bn of R&D spending carried out by EU parented companies in 2011.

It suggests that the benefits to the UK in terms of trade deals with the rest of the world, funding for innovation, completing the single market, and smarter regulation, are much greater than opting out of individual regulations.