Ros Snowdon: Let’s not throw our toys out of the pram over Europe

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Deloitte’s chairman David Cruikshank has shown some gumption by putting his head above the parapet and criticising the Tories’ commitment to a referendum on Europe.

He says he doesn’t want to scaremonger by suggesting that investors will pull out of the UK if we have a referendum, but maybe scaremongering is exactly what we need.

Britain is in grave danger of sleepwalking towards a European exit that will be disastrous for our economy, our international reputation and inevitably our unemployment figures.

Choosing to opt out of Europe because we don’t like some of the rules is akin to a small child throwing a tantrum in the playground and stalking off.

The Germans have a nickname for us – Island Monkeys. An insular race that sees itself as superior to our European rivals. Perhaps they have a point.

Britain exports 50 per cent of its goods to Europe. A new report published by Regus today shows that UK firms trading internationally are two fifths more likely to increase profits than those sticking to the domestic market.

Nearly two thirds of businesses said Europe is the most profitable market for expansion, despite economic instability, followed by China (40 per cent), North America (34 per cent) and India (28 per cent).

Europe is by far our most important trading partner. Pulling out of Europe would not only jeopardise our European exports, but the rest of the world will look dimly on an insular little nation that can’t buckle down to the rules that govern the rest of the Continent we live in.

I’m not for a second suggesting that the EU rules are fine as they are. Some of them are plain bonkers. Brussels has become lazy, incompetent, arrogant and not fit for purpose.

But we need to pinpoint exactly which parts we object to – whether it be the working time directive or legislation on the environment, social affairs or crime – rather than talk about some airy fairy ideal.

David Cameron says he wants Britain to remain in the EU and is confident of winning a new settlement, with powers returned to the UK so he can recommend a yes vote.

But why is he confident of winning a settlement? Our European partners are tired of us cherry-picking which EU laws suit us. Britain needs to be a strong, fully committed European member arguing for change.

I voted Tory at the last General Election – mostly because I couldn’t bear to give Labour another 13 years to squander our taxes and take us into wars we should never have been involved in in the first place.

But I will vote Labour at the next one to avoid this referendum.

Few people have warmed to Ed Miliband – the Oxbridge elite that rules Westminster seems so out of touch with the rest of us.

However, he was a revelation at the CBI conference as he made a forceful plea for Britain to stay in the EU and help reform it. Speaking without notes, he called on business leaders to halt the stampede towards the EU departure lounge.

While the rest of us guffawed over the decision to award the EU the Nobel Peace Prize, he said that our parents’ generation would have understood. They understood the noble ideal of peace and prosperity in place of war and terror.

Miliband’s parents fled persecution by the Nazis. We see the EU as a pointless lumbering giant, but without it the chances are slim that we would have enjoyed nearly 70 years of peace.

If Britain takes itself outside the EU, future world talks will be held by the EU, the US and China. We won’t have a place at the table.

Don’t think that Barack Obama will give a damn about the ‘special relationship’ between Britain and the US. If we’re not at the party, he’ll cosy up to Ms Merkel and Mr Hollande instead.

Irish philosopher Edmund Burke famously said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

While I’m not suggesting that evil will persist if we pull out of the EU, we can’t afford to do nothing. Anyone who sees business as a force for good in terms of employment, production and ultimately the corporation taxes that fund the Government’s coffers needs to stand up and be counted.

We face five years in limbo before this referendum. Do we really believe foreign investors will want to invest in a country that could feasibly pull out of the EU? Or will they opt to site their plants in a ‘safe’ country where there’s no chance of jingoists scuppering the country’s fate.

According to the latest email from UKIP, the UK’s working people are being betrayed by open-door immigration driving down wages. The toddler mentality is alive and well at UKIP HQ. Business people in Britain need to stand up and be counted on this issue if we are to avoid the UK stalking out of the playground.