SMALL businesses would not benefit from the UK leaving the European Union, according to lobby group the Forum of Private Business (FPB).
It said that a complete withdrawal from the EU would also be bad for the general economy but that without some kind of renegotiation of the UK’s role, anti-European sentiment is likely to grow.
The forum’s head of policy, Alex Jackman, spoke out on the issue after prime minister David Cameron said there should be a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.
Mr Jackman said: “The Forum of Private Business does not support an ‘in/out’ referendum, simply because we don’t think it will give anything like a clear mandate.
“Even an overwhelming ‘in’ wouldn’t silence the doubters, nor an overwhelming ‘out’ lead to exit, given the political flip-flopping over this issue of recent years.
“And in all probability, there wouldn’t be a significant majority one way or the other.
“But unless the UK can renegotiate terms, anti-EU feeling will grow. Institutions that are already seen as undemocratic will grow to become tyrannical in the views of many.
“The ever-spiralling central budgets will create even louder dissenting voices than at present. So the issue must be tackled.”
Instead, he said that UK governments should have a mandate to renegotiate terms and maintain an opt-out from closer integration.
Mr Jackman said: “It is a genuine bugbear for those small businesses in communities that have nothing to do with exporting who wonder what right the EU has to dictate how long their employees should be paid for sick leave or how they should sit at work.
“But there is the other demographic for whom the common market has helped enormously in growing their businesses overseas.
“Like it or not, most businesses export within Europe as their first step.
“What causes greater uncertainty for businesses isn’t how closely integrated with the EU we are, it is the long-term stability of our tax system.
“A huge multi-national will invest in the UK not because of a common market, but because of a stable tax regime and highly skilled workers.
“These are the real long-term problems the Government needs to address.”