THE BLOG

The EU Debate: What's Best for Business In Britain?

27/01/2015 16:18 GMT | Updated 29/03/2015 10:59 BST

A recent YouGov survey found that 43 per cent of Brits would vote to stay in the EU in a referendum, while 38 per cent would vote to leave.

It's always a controversial topic, but last night Lord Digby Jones, the former head of the CBI and former trade minister, navigated the tricky stretch of water between the UK and Europe in a speech under the scrutiny of an audience whose views of Europe most likely ranged from 'sceptic' to 'phile'.

And the way he did it at the Business for Britain event I attended last night, was to stick as close to facts and truths as possible, in an independently styled address that we so rarely hear.

Personally, I took from it that as a 500 million strong block we could be a massive power on the international stage, but as long as we continue to be victims of all of the weaknesses of individual states, we are indeed the sum of our weaknesses. To illustrate the point he imagined us, as a European relay team, in a race with the US, China and India. The French runner breaks his leg, but instead of trying to repair the injury, he goes about breaking everyone else in the team's legs, and of course team Europe gets slaughtered.

Lord Jones makes a great alternative case in that if we could be as skilled as the French, incorporate the industrial law and work ethic of the UK and combine it with the ability to plan and get things done of the Germans, then as a team we would be a power to be reckoned with.

These are of course big 'ifs', but we are at a unique crossroads for Europe, where there is a unique opportunity, maybe even an outside chance that it can be reformed into the sum of its good parts, not the merde!

Lord Jones closed his speech with something else you rarely hear in the Europe 'in-out' debate, which was the clear statement of fact: the truism that we should never believe that Europe doesn't care what we do, and that if we were to walk away from the EU, the EU simply cannot afford not to do business with us.

I suspect amongst that last bit there was something that appealed to the 'stay' side and the 'leave' side of the argument. They do want us to be a part of the EU and that is valuable leverage for Prime Minister David Cameron.

However if it is decided that their terms for Britain being a part of the EU are unacceptable, there is a third way - and three million jobs won't be lost overnight.

Personally I'm for getting the right deal and staying in, and my reasons haven't changed. We desperately need to smash the red tape at home and in Brussels, wherever it affects us, and there's plenty of it, believe me. Stuff that makes my depot manager fill out half a dozen forms to move a bit of rubbish about London; and rules that restrict working hours, and force small companies to employ data security experts.

But it stands to reason that if we're going to do business with half a billion Europeans, we might as well do it on preferential terms, rather than queuing in the 'other' line when we hit the airport.