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UK: probability rising for EU exit?

Friday, January 02, 2015 - 02:40

A rise in anti-EU sentiment amongst British voters may be undermining prime minister David Cameron's electoral appeal ahead of the UK's general election in May - and, it's argued, could enhance the prospect of the UK leaving the EU. Ciara Sutton reports

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Brompton bikes - founded over 25 years ago, it's the iconic fold-up bike that's revolutionised the daily commute for many around the world. Britain's future in Europe will likely be a key issue ahead of what is expected to be a tightly-contested general election next May. And Brompton is just one of a number of businesses keen to stay within the EU. Will Butler-Adams is the company's managing director. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WILL BUTLER-ADAMS, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF BROMPTON, SAYING: "It means doing trade is easy, it means less paperwork. We do lots of trade in lots of parts of the world where it is a complete pain. And not having that frustration, that disorganisation, that different pricing in different countries within our largest trading partners is a real positive. The problem is there are plenty of examples of spectacular wastes of money and huge inefficiencies and of course people get frustrated with that." A rise in anti-EU sentiment, fuelled by public resentment about immigration levels, has damaged Prime Minister David Cameron's chances of winning re-election. A number of supporters have defected to the anti-EU UK Independence Party. Cameron has vowed to push for EU reform - but has softened his demands from restrictions on migrants' freedom of movement to restrictions on their freedom to claim benefits. In any case, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly said she'd rather see a UK exit from the EU, than compromise on the free movement of European workers. The risk of Britain's exit could prompt some businesses to look further afield. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WILL BUTLER-ADAMS, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF BROMPTON, SAYING: "I think there is a misunderstanding within small businesses that doing business in South Korea is some daunting horrendous prospect and that we are nowhere near big enough to do it. Rubbish. It's a little more complicated. You need to manage it slightly differently, but there is no reason why we shouldn't be doing business in South Korea, or in China or in Canada or in Colombia." But some investors say a Brexit would deter foreign investment and harm London's financial services industry. Justin Urquhart Stewart from Seven Investment Management. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JUSTIN URQUHART STEWART, HEAD OF CORPORATE DEVELOPMENT AT SEVEN INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, SAYING: "If we left it would really rather bad for the city of London. We may not like the way the EU operates, but if you want to change a club you've got to be part of that club. Otherwise all you are going to be doing is encouraging people to do the business inside the club but without us. Why on earth would you give up a seat at the top table of the largest trading bloc in the world?" Business lobby groups are divided over whether a referendum is a good idea. But almost all say an exit could be a long and lonely ride for a Britain outside the EU.

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UK: probability rising for EU exit?

Friday, January 02, 2015 - 02:40