County business leaders mixed response to Cameron's pledge on Europe
THE Prime Minister's long awaited speech on the UK's future in Europe has met with a mixed response from the county's business leaders.
David Cameron said he want a "in or out" referendum on our membership of the EU by 2017 and a negotiated return of more powers from Brussels to the UK Government.
Some of the county's business leaders welcomed the move towards a looser relationship with our European partners but other fear uncertainty about the future could hit trade.
Chris Pockett, head of communications at Renishaw, the Wotton-under-Edge based high tech engineering and metrology group, said: "As a company that trades across the EU zone, both directly and through a network of wholly owned subsidiaries, we have real concerns about a possible UK withdrawal and the future uncertainties over what that would mean for freedom of trade, employment, tax and other hidden consequences that would add cost and complexity.
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"Like any business we need to be constantly planning for the future and the uncertainties that are now raised are going to make for an uncomfortable period both ahead of a possible 2017 referendum and, in the event of an 'Out' vote, the years post 2017 whilst the implications of a withdrawal work through the system of trade between the EU and UK."
Richard Knight, head of the corporate team at Rickerbys Solicitors in Cheltenham, said: "Britain has a very long history of taking difficult decisions with regard to its relationship with the European Union.
"Chief among these I would rank as our decision not to embrace the euro. There is a however an inherent difficulty with the position taken by David Cameron.
"Any decision to have a national referendum runs the risk of nationalistic feelings coming to the fore and decisions being made on nothing more than a win according to the most articulate politician at the time of the referendum. What is absolutely key for Britain is a need to become and remain competitive in an ever increasing global economy."
Richard Perry, chairman of the Gloucestershire branch of the Institute of Directors, said county businesses, large or small, already had important business dealings with the EU, especially as exports continue to be the way forward for UK business growth.
"And so it is vital that a trading relationship between the UK and the EU continues," he said. "But, as any business leader knows, a good business deal comes from healthy negotiation and at the moment the terms appear to be unequal and therefore unsustainable.
"British business is resilient. It is flexible and it can cope with change – or uncertainty. The Eurozone crisis is the source of far more uncertainty than a referendum and it is paramount that this is resolved."