By Jeffries Briginshaw, CEO, BritishAmerican Business
With the referendum high on the political and public agenda in the UK and beyond we are increasingly being asked what we – as a representative of the British American pillar of the transatlantic business community – think about the future of the UK in Europe.
In March 2016 we surveyed our members to find out what they think about the upcoming referendum and its impact on business. With 95% in favour of the UK remaining in the EU, our member’s preference is clear. So why is this the case?
Let’s start with trade. The EU is currently negotiating a comprehensive trade and investment agreement with the US, something we wholeheartedly support in part because it helps build an open and innovation-friendly European marketplace. Economies with strong ties to the US, like the UK, stand to benefit the most. Indeed we continue to showcase exactly that with many tangible examples drawn in particular from the experiences of particularly smaller companies for whom TTIP represents a real win. Not being part of this deal creates uncertainty because we do not know how long it would take for the UK to negotiate a trade and investment agreement with the US were it to go it alone, nor do we know what the terms of such an agreement would be given the reduced bargaining power we would have, negotiating as a market place of 60 million, rather than 500 million.
Second, regulation. The UK has – par excellence – fought for reform of the Single Market to ensure that it facilitates rather than diminishes opportunities for business. The common regulatory framework is a huge advantage for businesses operating across European borders. Were the UK to lose access to the Single Market and develop regulation in parallel rather than in conjunction with the EU, this could create additional burdens for businesses. And without the UK at the table in Brussels, the regulations that do emerge – and we will have to comply with them anyway – will likely be less business friendly.
Finally, investment. The UK is fortunate to sit between the US and the EU, acting as a bridge between the two. Nothing demonstrates this attractiveness better than the UK’s position as the top European destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), much of which comes from the US. The UK is an attractive destination to our US colleagues for many reasons: a favourable business environment, common language and liberal approach to trade amongst others, but also for its role as the gateway to the EU. A million British jobs alone are directly connected to US investment. Those jobs are unlikely to disappear if the UK decides to leave the EU but looking to the future it raises questions about whether the UK would remain as attractive to future investment as it currently does.
A strong British voice within Europe will help cement the transatlantic economic relationship and provide stability for both British and American businesses operating across the EU. There are many reforms that would make the EU more efficient but the only way to deliver these and ensure that transatlantic business maximise the benefit is with the UK at the top table.
 UKTI (2015): Inward Investment Report 2014 – 2015: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ukti-inward-investment-report-2014-to-2015/ukti-inward-investment-report-2014-to-2015-online-viewing: EY (2015): EY’s Attractiveness Survey 2015: http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/The_UK_Attractivness_Survey_2015_-_full_report/$FILE/1595088_UKAS_report_2015_FINALWEB.pdf