By Martin Kelly
Increasingly Euro-sceptic messages from all three pro-Union parties over the UK’s membership of the European Union is following a UKIP agenda and creating a real threat to businesses, the SNP has said today.
Following last week’s statement by Ed Miliband in which the Labour leader refused to rule out an In/Out EU referendum under a future Labour government, the nationalists have now highlighted concerns raised by several companies as evidence of the damage being caused by increasing Euro-scepticism from London.
According to Alex Salmond’s party, with all of the main Westminster parties now committed to holding a referendum on EU membership – Labour and the Lib Dem qualifying their party pledge – the damaging prospect of leaving the EU will now hang over the UK indefinitely, regardless of which party is in power at Westminster.
Last week UK Business Secretary Vince Cable voiced his own concerns that the anti-EU rhetoric was harming the anti-independence campaign in Scotland.
“How on Earth do you expect to persuade the Scots to ignore the siren voices of nationalism and separatism when you indulge in British nationalism and Euro-separatism?” the senior Lib Dem MP said.
Leaders of several high profile businesses have expressed their concern over growing uncertainty that the UK will remain in the European Union.
Prominent figures including Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman of Nestlé, Steve Odell, chief executive of Ford Europe and Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, all spoke out against the intention to hold a referendum on continued EU membership after the next general election.
Brabeck-Letmathe, 69, said that talk of a withdrawal from the EU made little sense financially.
“From a purely economic point of view, I can’t see that the withdrawal of the UK would be favourable for any UK industries.
“It would isolate the UK economically. Every company would be forced to re-evaluate the implications of investing in the UK. It would no doubt have an impact on its ability to supply European markets.”
Van Beurden, 55, stated that his company was in favour of continued UK involvement in the EU for the purposes of ‘investment stability and certainty’.
He added: “As a global business with feet planted firmly on both sides of the Channel, we also believe that the UK’s national interests are best served by a close relationship with Europe.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has already promised that there will be an in/out referendum on continued EU membership by the end of 2017 – though only if the Conservatives win an outright majority at the next general election.
Ford chief Odell said that he “would strongly advise against” EU withdrawal and that both businesses and employment must be considered when debating the benefits of EU membership in general.
Neil Rami, chief executive of Marketing Birmingham, said that holding a referendum on the EU in the first place is too risky.
He said: “By pledging a referendum and putting EU membership in the balance, we lose a major string to our bow and potential investors will look elsewhere.”
The SNP is urging voters who wish to remain in the EU to vote Yes, arguing that a No vote will put Scotland’s position in the European Union at risk.
SNP MSP Roderick Campbell, a member of the European and External Relations Committee, said:
“With all of the main Westminster parties now fully signed up to following UKIP’s agenda and prolonging uncertainty over the UK’s place in the EU, it is now undeniable that the best way to protect Scotland’s place in Europe is with a Yes vote in September.”
Campbell, 60, who represents the North East Fife constituency, also reiterated the fears businesses face over the possibility of EU withdrawal.
He added: “The overwhelming weight of evidence is that the biggest things concerning businesses is the danger of the UK withdrawing from the EU. That affects jobs and investment and undermines the many businesses who sell their goods and services to the rest of the continent.
“Instead of isolation and uncertainty, a Yes vote this year will enable us to play a full and active part in protecting Scotland’s interests in Europe.”