British Prime Minister David Cameron has invoked increasing trade with India as part of his plea to the public to vote to remain in the EU in Thursday’s crucial referendum, saying the UK could do more with the country but cutting off from the main market would be “economic madness”.
Cameron was taking questions from the audience last night as part of a special BBC ‘Question Time’ show when he said, “The rise of countries like India and China…[means we have] big economies that we need to trade with more. But European trade and European economies have grown a great amount since we joined in 1972”.
He said Britain could “do more with India” but not at the expense of cutting itself off from the EU.
Responding to a question on why the share of EU world trade had dropped from 20 to 15 per cent, he said, “It has dropped as a share of the total but as an entity it has increased”.
Cameron also said that about 80 per cent of Britain’s economy is services, things like insurance and banking and architecture and sales and advertising etc.
“We sell more in services today to Luxembourg than we do to the whole of India. Of course, we need to do better with India; we need a trade deal with India. But the idea that we should cut ourselves off from our main market, I think is economic madness. We need to work to succeed in our main market and then open up the other markets,” he said.
About 45 per cent of the UK’s exports go to EU with its exports to the bloc accounting for 227 billion pounds and imports accounting for 288 billion pounds in 2014.
The debate for Britain’s future with the 28-member economic bloc enters its final stages this week with just three days to go before the crucial referendum.
With opinion polls reflecting a very close contest between the side in favour to remain and those in favour of an exit, so-called Brexit, some of the UK’s senior-most entrepreneurs and professionals today came out strongly for remain.
Ken Gregor, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Tata Motors owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), said: “Remaining in the EU – our largest market– will increase Jaguar Land Rover’s chances to grow, create jobs and attract investment in future technologies.”
“Our European supply chain has been fundamental in helping us to meet customer expectations worldwide and achieve sustainable, profitable growth,” Gregor said.
He joined Britain’s car industry trade body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ (SMMT), to warn leaving the EU would increase costs and threaten jobs.
“Remaining will allow the UK to retain the influence on which the unique and successful UK automotive sector depends,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.
Virgin Group boss Richard Branson, one of the country’s most respected business tycoons, also warned that a British exit from the EU would be “devastating” for the UK’s long- term prosperity.
“Although I’ve been living in the British Virgin Islands for some time now, I have never stopped caring passionately about the UK and its great people. I am one of the few business people who can remember how difficult it was before the EU was formed,” Richard Branson writes in an open letter.
Drinks giant Diageo’s chief executive, Ivan Menezes, also wrote to his company’s 4,773 UK employees, telling them that it would be “better for the UK, better for Diageo and better for the Scotch whisky industry that we remain in”.
Beyond just the business case, Britain’s Premier League chief Richard Scudamore told BBC that leaving would be “incongruous” in the context of the league’s commitment to “openness”.
“There is an openness about the Premier League which I think it would be completely incongruous if we were to take the opposite position,” he said.
Big business and financial firms have generally been in favour of staying in the EU, although surveys suggest that small businesses are more evenly split.
On the other side of the argument, John Longworth, chair of Vote Leave camp’s business council, rebutted that the UK would be better off outside the EU.
He said: “The single market isn’t a nirvana, it’s a mirage. The single market’s a protectionist area. [Under Brexit] We’d be able to remove the external barriers, reduce the cost of clothing and footwear. Reduce the cost of food products we can’t produce in the UK because at the moment the EU puts tariffs up to the rest of the world which we have to pay for.”
The campaign fully resumed on Sunday after a two-day suspension following the brutal murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.
Vote Leave campaigners have accused the remain camp of using the pro-EU views of Cox to its favour.
Andrew Murrison, a Conservative MP and former defence minister, said in a tweet that he later deleted: “Remain side spinning Jo Cox murder for partisan advantage in #EUReferendum shameful.”
Meanwhile, pro-EU politicians believe the rhetoric from the Brexit campaign has gone too far in whipping up anti-immigrant feeling.
A poster from the far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP) entitled “Breaking Point: The EU has failed us all” and depicting hoards of immigrants lining up to enter the UK has created a storm on both sides.
Pakistani-origin former Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi, who had been a Brexit supporter, switched sides saying she had been turned off by “hate and xenophobia” reflected in the poster.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described it as “vile and racist”, while UK Chancellor George Osborne said it was “disgusting”.UKIP chief Nigel Farage has defended the poster as “the truth of what’s going on”.