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Britain must avoid EU exit vote: CBI business lobby

19 November 2012, 14:17 CET

(LONDON) - Britain's biggest employers' group vowed on Monday to argue against a vote for Britain to leave the EU, in any referendum on European Union membership amid dwindling support for the country's place in the bloc.

Roger Carr, president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), told the group's annual meeting that European Union membership was a "launchpad" for international trade involving non-eurozone member Britain.

"If we are to avoid an exit vote in any referendum it is essential that the voice of British business is loud and clear in extolling the virtues of future engagement -- not as a reluctant participant -- but as the lynchpin of our wider global trade ambitions," Carr told delegates.

With the economic crisis boosting anti-EU sentiment in Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron has said that when the time is right he will hold a referendum on Britain's relationship with the 27-country bloc.

Eurosceptics meanwhile are pushing for a straight "in-out" referendum on Britain's membership after a sharp drop over recent years in British public support for remaining part of the EU.

"Europe, however challenged, remains home for half our exports," Carr said. "It's like many relationships -- can't live with you, can't live without you -- but somehow the partnership continues to survive. Whatever the popular appeal may be of withdrawal, businessmen and politicians must keep a bridge to Europe firmly in place.

"As countries of Europe bind together in pursuit of salvation, we in the UK must work harder to avoid the risks of isolation. Europe is the bedrock of our international trade.

"It should be viewed as the launchpad from which our global trade can expand -- not a landmass from which we wish to retreat," Carr added.

He also called on British companies to pursue rapidly growing emerging markets and beyond China and India.

"We must, business and government, redouble our focus on our export performance, and get after those opportunities that are outside our traditional comfort zone.

"Not just China and India, but Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam, Russia, and of course South America," the CBI head said.


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