THE economy could be harmed by a referendum on Britain’s EU membership, according to a business expert in Cumbria.
Rob Johnston, chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, has warned that David Cameron’s stance could create years of uncertainty and impact on inward investment. nMr Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum during the early part of the next parliament – by the end of 2017 at the latest – if the Conservatives win the next general election. France has already piled on the pressure by saying it would welcome any firms looking to relocate to stay within the EU. And Mr Johnston said the uncertainty would be damaging for businesses.
He said: “It’s to be hoped that the prime minister is doing this for the right reasons – ie the cost of Europe – and not because he’s under pressure from his party to be firm on Europe.“It’s worth remembering that the vast majority of foreign investment into the UK since the 1980s has been based on access to European markets, with investors seeing the UK as an attractive gateway to Europe.“This is particularly so in the north of England, where many traditional manufacturing businesses were based and where there’s been significant change.“Clearly we should be concerned at the impact of any decision but also of the uncertainty for in the intervening period business and the consequences of this on investment between now and any referendum on Europe.“And remember that given that it’s beyond the next election it might or might not happen, adding further to the uncertainty.”