LONDON: Britain should hold a referendum on its membership of the European Union as soon as possible to reduce the damaging impact of uncertainty, the head of business group British Chambers of Commerce said on Tuesday.
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain’s ties with the 28 nation bloc ahead of a referendum in 2017 if he is re elected in May, but has said he would like to hold the membership vote sooner if possible.
The opposition Labor party, which is neck and neck with Cameron’s Conservatives in many polls ahead of May’s national election, only plans to hold a referendum if there is a significant transfer of powers from London to Brussels.
“Our members say that they actually want a referendum.
There is obviously a debate around a referendum at the moment that is creating uncertainty, so if we are going to have a referendum we ought to do it quickly,” John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) told BBC radio.
Longworth said if Labor was elected it would come under “huge pressure” to hold a referendum and that would create yet more uneasiness.
“We have to come to a conclusion on these things and move on Uncertainty is bad for business,” he said.
In a speech to the BCC annual conference later, Longworth will say his members support staying in a reformed EU but warn of a situation where all decisions are made by, and for, the euro zone.
“Without true reform, business support for the European project is far from guaranteed.
A new settlement for Britain in Europe is essential to achieving our economic ambitions,” he will say, according to advance extracts released by his office.