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The MTA and Europe

The MTA and the EU

Last weekend saw the waiting finally come to an end as the Prime Minister set a date for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU – 23rd of June 2016 and fire the starting gun in the campaign. While the early headlines were dominated by the ‘will he, won’t he’ decision of Boris Johnson, business opinion is set to play a role in a decision in which economic factors are central. This week saw a slew of FTSE figures sign a letter supporting ‘Remain’ and the ‘Leave’ campaign lining up similar.

In order to be able to express a view on this vitally important issue the MTA conducted a survey of members at the end of last year. The results were shared at the AGM in December and published in the Friday Brief three weeks ago. 89% of MTA members, when thinking about their companies, believed that it was in the UK’s interests to Remain in the EU.

Of course the economy isn’t the only factor that might weigh on voter’s minds and we are mindful that the Association contains a healthy range of viewpoints, however with Remain in such a large majority the MTA Board believe that it is reasonable to publish a statement of the Association’s views. This does not mean that the MTA will be joining a particular campaigning group in the referendum, still less that we will be trying tell members how to vote, but we believe that as the issue is so important to the economic future of the country having a policy on it is the right thing to do. The Policy Statement is below.

The MTA and Europe

The MTA strongly favours the UK remaining within the European Union. Over 80% of the output of the UK manufacturing technology sector is exported, with the countries of the EU by far the largest single market (c.45%). The ability to access that market cheaply and efficiently is essential to our continued competitiveness.

In addition many MTA companies are multinationals, including companies from outside the EU, in particular the USA and Japan, who have established a European HQ in the UK. This provides a multiplier effect bringing with it economic activity, and consequent employment in a diverse range of business functions like Applications Engineering, Marketing, Management and Finance – not just a UK sales team. This is about more than market access, it is about the UK being a fully participatory member of the EU, able to influence the political and economic climate.

Manufacturing technology is a global market. As the largest economic bloc in the world, the EU is better placed to negotiate International Trade Agreements than the UK would be alone. This argument also applies to adoption of international standards where the MTA represents a UK voice in concert with our European partners.

MTA Member’s views

MTA members were consulted in late 2015. When asked the question “Thinking about the consequences for your business, should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?  YES/NO” 89% of respondents answered “yes” and “10%” answered “no”. 1% indicated that they were “unsure”.

Further, 60% of that 89% said that the renegotiations then being undertaken by the Government would make no difference to their propensity to vote yes or no.

Members were also asked which of the following key topics were the most important:

·       Protections for countries outside the euro-zone

·       Expanding the Single Market

·       Pressing for lower EU spending including reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and Structural Funds

·       Focussing EU spending on jobs and growth

·       An end the UK’s commitment to ‘ever closer Union’

Respondents regarded expanding the Single Market and focussing EU spending on jobs and growth as the two most important, but all topics were singled out by some respondents and none stood out.

The response rate to the consultation exercise, which was carried out through a mixture of volunteered responses and telephone interviews carried out by market researchers, was 45%, the highest such figure recorded for an Association survey for at least two decades.