U.K. businesses will back Prime Minister David Cameron in his bid to keep Britain in the European Union if he secures a deal that helps the economy, the British Chambers of Commerce said.
Among five key reforms the lobby group identified, Britain needs an opt-out from an “ever closer union” and a “clear and balanced” approach to immigration, Director General John Longworth said. In a letter to Cameron, he also said the common market needs to be improved to benefit services companies, and the U.K. must be protected from some of the EU’s excessive regulation.
“There is now broad agreement across the political spectrum that our relationship with the EU needs to change and, as the euro zone moves away from us, that the status quo is not an option,” Longworth said in the letter. “You will want to guarantee the sovereignty of the U.K. and to secure a settlement which takes into account the U.K.’s economic welfare. If you do that, the tens of thousands of the businesses the BCC represents will be four-square behind you.”
The intervention comes as Cameron prepares to go to Brussels Thursday to meet fellow European leaders, and after his office said Monday it wants negotiations to move into a “technical” stage. Immigration -- specifically Britain’s push to curb benefits for employed EU migrants -- remains one of the main points of contention in negotiations, with Germany and Poland among countries having expressed opposition to restrictions.
The U.K. government is leaning toward October 2016 as the date for its EU membership referendum, according to two people familiar with the deliberations. Cameron has pledged a vote by the end of 2017.
Longworth suggested that businesses would scrutinize the negotiations closely.
“They will be deeply concerned if issues central to the country’s prosperity are overlooked or compromised at the negotiating table,” he said in the letter.