Thursday

19th Apr 2018

Business leaders back Blair warning on referendum 'chaos'

British political leaders have traded blows about the merits of an EU referendum, after the business community appeared to back Tony Blair's suggestion the referendum would cause “chaos" and discourage firms from investing in the UK.

In a speech on Tuesday (7 April), the former Labour prime minister said the threat of leaving the bloc would leave a “pall of unpredictability hanging over the British economy.”

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The intervention by Blair, who praised Labour leader Ed Miliband for having shown “real leadership on the EU” by refusing to match David Cameron’s referendum promise, is his first in a very tight election campaign.

David Cameron, the incumbent Tory PM, has promised to re-negotiate the UK’s membership terms followed by an ‘in/out’ referendum by the end of 2017 if his Conservative party wins re-election next month. The Labour party, Cameron’s coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, and the nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales, all oppose a referendum.

The pledge was dismissed by Blair as “a concession to party, a manoeuvre to access some of the Ukip vote, a sop to the rampant anti-Europe feeling of parts of the media.”

However, it is unclear whether the three-time election winner, who had high hopes of becoming the first president of the European Council when the post was created by the Lisbon treaty, still holds any sway over voters.

Blair’s role in leading the Iraq war, together with his controversial, but lucrative, business interests since leaving office have made him a divisive figure in both the Labour party and national debate.

Cameron dismissed Blair’s intervention as “extraordinary”, but comments by business leaders suggested that he had struck a chord.

"Businesses crave certainty and the threat of a British exit from the EU is already seeing investment decisions postponed,” said Lucy Thomas, the director of campaign group Business for New Europe. She added that a "Brexit" would lead to “certain sectors seeing very real threats to their continued business in the UK”.

Cameron’s referendum pledge, together with the increase in support for the UK independence party, Ukip, has made the UK’s EU status a more prominent issue on the campaign trail than in previous elections.

Labour is hoping that its anti-referendum stance will help pick up votes from a business community that is otherwise sceptical about its ability to manage the UK economy.

For her part, Katja Hall, the deputy director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: “the decision on holding a referendum is one for the government of the day and voters, but a significant majority of businesses are clear that they want to stay in a reformed European Union.

Elsewhere, Scottish Nationalist (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon hinted that her party would promise to hold a second referendum on independence should they win re-election in 2016.

The SNP has seen a surge in support despite Scottish voters narrowly choosing to remain part of the UK last September, and is poised to win at least 40 of the 59 constituencies in Scotland, traditionally a Labour stronghold.

Cameron faces new EU referendum backlash

Cameron is facing a eurosceptic backlash inside his Conservative party, amid reports that up to 100 of his MPs will vote for Britain's withdrawal.

UK's EU referendum could be held earlier

Cameron has said he will not rule out an earlier-than-planned referendum on EU membership should he remain in office after the May general election.

Column / Brexit Briefing

All hail the new establishment

Blair's return to British politics and Farage's likely lordship indicate that a new establishment is taking shape in Britain.

Analysis

Orban, the 'anti-Merkel', emboldens European right

Hungary's premier Viktor Orban has inspired 'illiberalism' across central Europe and far-right politicians in the West. His expected re-election this Sunday will further reinforce his standing as a symbol for being tough on Europe's political mainstream.

News in Brief

  1. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  2. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  3. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  4. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  5. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  6. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  7. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit
  8. Merkel and Macron meet to finetune eurozone reform plans

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeParabéNs! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  2. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  3. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  4. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  5. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  6. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  10. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector

Latest News

  1. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  2. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  3. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  4. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists
  5. Getting secret EU trilogue documents: a case study
  6. Selmayr case scars Parliament and Commission
  7. Beyond macho: Turkish-EU ties
  8. 'Flobert' guns - Europe's latest terror loophole