British car industry overwhelmingly backs EU membership: survey

LONDON Wed Apr 2, 2014 4:09am EDT

Cars are displayed outside a Volvo showroom in west London October 4, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Cars are displayed outside a Volvo showroom in west London October 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

LONDON (Reuters) - More than 90 percent of companies operating in the British car industry want the country to stay within the European union, a survey showed on Wednesday, with access to the single market deemed fundamental to the sector's success.

The automotive industry has been one of the most vocal supporters of EU membership since Prime Minister David Cameron promised an in/out referendum by the end of 2017 if his party wins next year's election.

A survey by trade association the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) found 92 percent of automotive companies believed that staying in the EU would be best for their business, with 70 percent concerned that a withdrawal would damage their medium to long term futures.

Despite the strong support, SMMT members said they did want to see reform of the 28-member bloc, with many regulations seen as too complex and likely to undermine international competitiveness.

"The position of the UK automotive industry is clear - being part of a strong Europe is critical for future success," SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said in a statement.

"The recent success of the UK automotive sector is due to its global competitiveness; competitiveness that is enhanced by a supportive business environment at home and access to the huge single market."

The British car industry enjoyed a renaissance in 2013, hitting a six-year production high due to strong domestic demand and exports outside the European Union.

The SMMT survey said the main EU benefits were access to a single market, integrated supply chains, free movement of labor and the ability to influence harmonized technical regulations across the region.

The EU is also seen as an important bargaining force when it comes to agreeing global trade negotiations.

(Reporting by Kate Holton and Brenda Goh, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

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