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'Brexit': should the UK stay or go?

Monday, December 30, 2013 - 02:46

Dec 30 - With 2014 expecting to see the UK's main political parties jockeying for position ahead of parliamentary elections mid-2015, attention is shifting to a key pledge from prime minister, David Cameron: that UK voters will be offered their say on Britain's membership of the EU, in a conclusive in/out referendum. David Pollard asks whether a UK exit or 'Brexit' would be good for the UK.

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In the shadow of the City of London, a taste of South America. Chocolates made with cocoa from Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador - by Helen Pattinson; winner of the Natwest Everywoman Award as a role model to business; Eurosceptic when it comes to Britain's place in Europe; and Europhile. Or at least, a bit of both. SOUNDBITE (English) HELEN PATTINSON, CO-FOUNDER, MONTEZUMA'S, SAYING: ''Right out I don't think would be a really bad thing, right in could be really good, just not this half-way house.'' With around 100 people on their payroll and a £7 million turnover, Montezuma's sell premium chox through their own shops - and to retailers like John Lewis and Waitrose. About 15% of that wholesale trade ends up abroad. For those exports, and for imports of raw materials, greater integration - even the single currency - would be a plus. SOUNDBITE (English) HELEN PATTINSON, CO-FOUNDER, MONTEZUMA'S, SAYING: ''Our cocoa, most of it comes from Central and South America, but we use family processing firms in Italy and in that sense we can't set our contracts until we're comfortable that the euro is in the right place, at the moment. So to have that with all the risk gone would be amazing.'' What if Britain went the other way, and pulled out? On top of currency risk for businesses like Montezuma's, the UK would lose its bargaining power. No more say on key issues like banking reform and creating a single market in services. According to noted Europhile and UK government minister, Ken Clarke. SOUNDBITE (English) KEN CLARKE, MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO, SAYING: ''In the rule making for that single market, we'd be reduced to the status of Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway, who pay a contribution, trade in the European Union, but put up with whatever comes out of Brussels, negotiated by the full members when it comes to the rules of the game, and we'd be rather vulnerable.'' Others believe Britain - and especially the City of London - could tough it out. That like that great chocolate producing nation, Switzerland, if anything its rich assortment of financial services could prove even more tempting. Economist Roger Bootle. SOUNDBITE (English) ROGER BOOTLE, ECONOMIST, CAPITAL ECONOMICS, SAYING: ''It houses one of Europe's - apart from London - most successful financial centres, namely Zurich. I think what you'd find if London was outside the EU, there would be some difficulties. But also there would all sorts of business that would be attracted to London, because people hate the idea of EU regulation.'' Bootle supports David Cameron's pledge to renegotiate UK terms with the EU before a referendum in 2017. Some see it leaving the prime minister in a sticky spot. If he fails to secure EU concessions it could lead to his political demise. If he succeeds, the British public could still vote against Europe anyway. And for that referendum to take place at all, Cameron has to win an election in 2015 first.

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'Brexit': should the UK stay or go?

Monday, December 30, 2013 - 02:46