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By Kate Holton and Brenda Goh
LONDON, April 2 More than 90 percent of
companies operating in the British car industry want the country
to stay in the European Union, a survey showed on Wednesday,
with access to the single market deemed fundamental to the
The automotive industry has been one of the most vocal
supporters of Britain's role in the EU since Prime Minister
David Cameron threw membership into doubt with the promise of an
in/out referendum by the end of 2017 if his party wins next
year's national election.
Britain's car industry, which employs around 730,000 people
in Britain and generates sales of almost 60 billion pounds ($100
billion) a year, enjoyed a renaissance in 2013, bucking a weak
European trend to hit a six-year production high.
According to a survey by the Society of Motor Manufacturers
and Traders (SMMT), 92 percent of companies in the industry
believe membership of the 28-country bloc has been a key driver
of that growth.
Seventy percent believe a withdrawal would damage their
medium- to long-term futures.
"Being part of a strong Europe is critical for future
success," SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said in a statement.
Amongst the benefits to the industry are access to the
single market, integrated supply chains, free movement of labour
and the ability to influence regulations across the region.
Three percent of car firms said they would like to leave the
EU, and the remaining 5 percent had no opinion.
FILLING THE POLITICAL VOID
A string of multinational employers operating in Britain,
including financial services firms and planemaker Airbus as well
as carmakers Ford and Nissan, have expressed concern at the
prospect of Britain withdrawing from the EU.
Leading British figures including advertising industry
heavyweight Martin Sorrell and Roger Carr, chairman of defence
giant BAE, have also fronted the campaign - often
filling a void left by politicians who have struggled to make
the case for EU membership in the face of rising anti-EU
Much of the early debate has instead been led by Nigel
Farage, the head of the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Joe Twyman, director of political and social research for
Europe, Middle East and Africa at pollsters YouGov, said their
research showed people were likely to make their decision based
on which option would make them better off financially.
"So if you can make that economic argument, which is very
very strong, then that is a powerful thing and who better, you
could argue, to make that economic argument than businesses," he
At a London news conference attended by leading politicians
and business executives, John Leech, head of Automotive at KPMG
which helped produce the report, said EU membership had been key
to agreeing export deals with China and other emerging markets.
"The EU's role in negotiating free trade agreements with
emerging market partners is very important to the UK automotive
industry," he said.
But SMMT members said they did want to see the EU reformed,
with many regulations seen as too complex and likely to
undermine international competitiveness.
"The greatest risk is to do nothing, is to give up on
Europe, and simply accept anything that Europe chucks at us and
to see Europe start to decline as a trading area of the world,"
Business and Enterprise Minister Michael Fallon told the event.
(Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Writing by Kate
Holton; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith and John Stonestreet)