Business leaders push for closer alignment with the EU
Business leaders are urging Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to consider a bold move toward closer ties with the EU through “beneficial alignment.” This follows a suggestion, backed by the French and German governments, to create a new ‘associate membership” of the EU which would see a new tier for non-members, potentially including the UK. In exchange for participation in the EU’s single market, these outer-tier countries would contribute to the EU’s annual budget.
Picking up on the idea of associate membership and following Kier Starmer’s comments in Canada that “we don’t want to diverge” from EU rules, dozens of business leaders and trade associations have signed a letter to the Guardian calling for closer alignment. Frustrated by Brexit red tape, they can see the benefits of removing tariff barriers and trade friction.
Nick Allen, CEO of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), supports this idea and told the Independent recently that “anything that makes trading with the EU more seamless would be a good thing – it would be a big improvement on what we have.” He added: “I’d like to think Labour, and all parties, would keep an open mind about associate membership.”
It’s our belief that no political party has a monopoly on good ideas, so industry and legislators should be open to all suggestions that help grow and protect UK businesses, including a more pragmatic system of alignment on food or a new veterinary agreement.
Nick Allen explains: “When it comes to regulation and standards, at the moment we’re behaving as though we were in Europe – but with all this bureaucracy and costs that are damaging productivity and adding to inflation.”
Something many people don’t understand is that, if we want sell goods to the EU, we have no choice but to comply with their rules and standards. In other words, we’ve been “aligning” and being “rule takers” all along since we left the EU. But, as Nick points out the additional bureaucracy and costs associated with not formally aligning are harming productivity and adding to inflation.
The big question for all political parties is whether the EU will have the appetite for such a major re-negotiation of our current deal.