Published on 24 September 2015
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- The Reformer Blog
29 September 2015
While the UK economy is showing strong signs of recovery, the major challenge facing policymakers and industry alike over the next five years will be to maintain the UK’s international competitiveness. That challenge will take place in a context of political uncertainty, with Britain’s future membership of the European Union (EU) under question and policymakers committed to devolving more power to the regions and nations of the UK.
As a major contributor to the UK economy (contributing £180 billion and employing 2.1 million people in 2013), the financial and related professional services industry has a key role to play in enabling economic recovery. Banking, insurance, fund management, accountancy and legal services provide the infrastructure for our daily lives; the industry helps people to buy homes, save for the future, prepare for retirement and grow their businesses. London’s pre-eminence in financial services is not only an asset to the UK in terms of providing jobs and driving growth, but also a major attraction for companies from around the world that want to access the European Single Market.
The UK’s membership of the EU is of strategic importance to the financial and related professional services industry and wider UK economy. Business opinion both within and beyond our industry confirms that continuing membership of the EU is important to the UK’s competitiveness, but that reform is essential. TheCityUK is advocating a number of practical reforms which, if implemented, could boost the EU’s competitiveness. We are calling for a deep and strong Single Market that is open to the world; better regulation; a European agenda for jobs, growth and competitiveness; and fair and equal treatment of all Member States. Taken together, these reforms are not about ‘more Europe’ or ‘less Europe’ but a better, more thoughtful Europe that will benefit all Member States, including the UK.
And while we reform the EU to make it work better, it is of vital importance that economic recovery is generated and felt not just in London and the South East, but right across the UK. The financial and related professional services industry, which employs two thirds of its staff outside the capital, has a key role to play in this. Policymakers, working with the private sector, also have a central role to play in encouraging long-term investment in infrastructure, business financing and skills development that will help the UK to maintain its international competitiveness.
Nicky Edwards, Director of Policy and Public Affairs
This article was written for the Reform Annual Journal to accompany the Labour Party Conference event “EU reform: building a more competitive Europe”.