The EEF (Engineering Employers Federation) have published a comprehensive report that brings together the views of their manufacturing companies on the EU. They conclude as follows:
Messages for manufacturers
1. Be active in the debate on our future in Europe
Manufacturers want to hear from other businesses not just politicians on what Europe means to the UK economy. If EU membership is important to investment plans and strategies to grow, then manufacturers’ voices must be heard in this debate.
2. Engage with European issues
Changes to regulations at the European level are not things that are done to UK business and over which we have no say. Like government, manufacturers can be more active in shaping the laws that affect them by working through business bodies and trade associations to make the EU work for our economy.
3. Make the EU work better for your business
The UK contributes ﬁnancially to the EU, which in turn supports a range of programmes aiming to help businesses compete and grow. Manufacturers can be more informed about these opportunities and ensure they are taking advantage of the UK’s contribution through, for example, Horizon 2020 funding for innovation and collaboration opportunities.
Messages for the UK government
4. Frame the debate in terms of how EU membership can be good for growth and jobs in our economy
Politicians on all sides must address the current frustration and confusion about how the UK’s future relationship with the EU is being approached. There are a myriad of misconceptions to be confronted by facts and better information about what the UK can and should prioritise and change. There must be much more clarity about the ambitions for the UK economy and what we want from the EU in order to achieve them. Failure to reframe the debate away from issues that are tangential to our economic potential and, in some cases have little to do with Europe, would have long-lasting consequences.
5. Act to improve the environment for businesses to invest and create good jobs
Reframing the debate and dealing with myths about Europe and its institutions is just a ﬁrst step. Manufacturers and the general public need to see real evidence of the UK’s inﬂuence in Europe. This means getting a good deal for UK companies on opening up trade and investment and setting the deregulation agenda. Actions on this front would speak louder than words and emphasise how the UK can deliver economic wins from membership.
6. Take a long-term view
Decisions on our future membership must not be made on the basis of short-term concerns. We need to see a clear vision from government on what kind of economy we are trying to build in the UK and the policy priorities from government to achieve this. The EU can and should play a positive role in the pursuit of stronger and better balanced growth and government must be clear on how it will work with EU institutions to achieve this and in which areas it will work to resist EU action.
7. Be better at being in Europe
Success in these areas requires the UK to be more effective and more engaged in European decision making and importantly, to promote this activity to the public more widely. In the wake of recession other member states want the EU to change tack and put competitiveness and growth at the heart of its work. The UK needs to engage more effectively to galvanise support for this agenda and push forward policies that will accelerate progress.
Message to the European Commission
8. Send a clear signal about priorities
As support for the EU is waning across the region, Europe itself has to get better at explaining how it is working for the beneﬁt of European citizens and businesses. Institutions need to set a clear growth and competitiveness agenda and be held accountable for making progress on those objectives. It must also better communicate the areas of policy on which Europe is stronger as a bloc and how this makes a difference to the economies and citizens across all member states.