By Stuart Rose, Chairman of Britain Stronger In Europe
The debate about whether Britain should remain in or leave the European Union may to many people seem remote and removed from everyday life. But the choice facing us is vitally important, and will impact directly on the prosperity and security of you and your family.
Our membership of the EU has served us well, as it has created jobs, cut prices in the shops, and increased our quality of life. Leaving Europe could mean British families losing all these benefits.
As a former chairman and chief executive of Marks & Spencer, I know a good deal about business, and about employing people in Britain.
A range of independent studies have estimated that between three and four million jobs in the UK depend on our place in Europe. This is because we are part of the world’s largest single market, with no tariffs or other barriers to trade between countries.
It helps our companies sell their products to Europe, the destination of 44% of our exports. It attracts investment, as Asian and American companies move to Britain to sell into the European market. And it reduces red tape for our small businesses, as 28 different national rules are condensed into one single European standard. This all means opportunities for British business and jobs for British workers.
The Confederation of British Industry estimates the benefit of our exports to Europe to be £3,000 a year for the average household. And in many other ways, the cash benefits of being in Europe to ordinary households are real and valuable. Research by the CEBR has found that our membership of the EU has lowered the prices of numerous household items, with dairy products, for example, being 8.8% lower than they would have been had we never joined.
Were we to leave Europe, tariffs could suddenly be levied on products imported from Europe, hitting the average British household in the pocket to the tune of £425 a year.
EU action has benefited the millions of Britons who fly to Europe for a week or two in the sun for their summer holidays. The greater competition created by the single market has lowered airfares by 40%. Indeed, easyJet has said that without the EU’s deregulation agenda they “would not exist.”
EU legislation caused a 73% fall in mobile phone roaming charges, which are now capped and will be abolished within Europe next year. EU law protects British travellers against being stranded abroad if their tour operator folds, and allows us to access medical treatment free at the point of use across Europe.
These are just some of the benefits being in Europe has delivered for the people of Britain. Those who want us to leave Europe have no idea what the detailed alternative to membership of the EU is, or how we could retain these benefits if we left. The EU is not perfect, but it is improving. And Britain is stronger, safer, and better off in Europe.
These are the personal views of Stuart Rose.