A British departure from the European Union would put at risk 466 billion pounds ($670 billion) of U.K. trade with nations in Europe and beyond, according to a report published Tuesday by the Centre for Economic and Business Research.
Britain’s membership of the bloc gives it “easy” access to trade with the other 27 member states, as well as another 68 nations around the world with which the EU has negotiated agreements, the center said in the report. It was prepared for the Britain Stronger in Europe group that’s campaigning for the U.K. to remain an EU member in a referendum promised by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Cameron aims to complete a renegotiation of the terms of Britain’s EU membership at a summit in Brussels starting Thursday and may hold the referendum as soon as June. Campaign groups on both sides of the argument are ramping up their rhetoric, with polls showing the gap narrowing. A ComRes poll for ITV on Monday showed 49 percent wishing to stay in the EU with 41 percent backing an exit -- with the gap dropping from 18 percentage points last month.
Chuka Umunna, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party and its former business spokesman, is due to address a business audience in London on Tuesday hosted by Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP, in which he’ll urge delegates to look at the trade benefits EU membership brings.
“As successful business people, ask yourselves this: Would you sever ties with your biggest customer to chase new leads?” Umunna will say, according to remarks e-mailed by Britain Stronger in Europe. “No, you would protect your customer base while nurturing new opportunities. And that is what Europe gives us:
Access to the world’s largest free-trade area combined with over 50 global free-trade deals that open up global markets from South Korea to Mexico to Canada.”