EU referendum debate begins in Parliament
MPs in the House of Commons have voted by 304 to zero in favour of giving a second hearing of a bill, tabled by the Conservative MP James Wharton, which will legislate an in-out referendum on the UK’s membership to the European Union’s membership by 2017.
The debate has gained traction within the Conservative party, although has been opposed by the Liberal Democrats and has been largely ignored by the Labour opposition, as most opposition MPs boycotted today’s vote.
Frustration with the Conservative’s preoccupation with the topic was echoed in a report today, released by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Britain’s largest business group.
The report states that if the UK left the EU the only alternative would be to follow Norway or Switzerland into being a part of the European Economic Area (EEA), which has the same level of access to the EU single market, but no voice in forming the rules and regulations that govern the single market. The CBI explains that this “half-way” house would be the wrong fit for the UK.
The CBI report attacks the heart of the Conservative argument against the EU that repatriation of sovereignty from the EU will strengthen the UK’s economic position. The CBI maintain that leaving the EU would mean being excluded from talks with the USA free trade agreement, which is predicted to be worth £10 billion to the UK and around €150 billion to the whole of the EU single market, as well as recently begun free trade talks with Japan.
The report also counters another Conservative argument that the UK would be relieved of the £8 billion a year membership cost for being part of the EU citing that Norway pays €100 per person in contributions to the EU for the privilege of being a EEA member, more than half Britain’s €180 as a full member.
Instead, the CBI called for a “clear vision” by Parliament on what role the UK would like to play within the EU versus the damaging uncertainty caused by the political Conservative agenda.