George Lyon MEP: EU membership crucial to Scotch Whisky success

george lyonScottish Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon said today that protecting Scotland’s place in Britain and Europe is crucial to securing jobs, after the world’s largest spirits company Diageo warned that whisky exports owe much of their success to EU global trade deals and membership of the single market.

Diageo is Scotland’s top manufacturing exporter thanks to whiskies such as Johnnie Walker, J & B and Talisker. Its intervention follows a submission from the Scotch Whisky Association to the UK government’s EU review which stated: “The SWA firmly believes the UK’s EU membership provides significant benefits in improving trading conditions for Scotch Whisky.”

Commenting, Mr Lyon said:

“We all want to see the Scotch industry to continue to thrive. These interventions from some of the leading lights of our whisky sector show just how crucial access to the UK and EU markets are to the success of the sector.

“It is clear that our place in Britain and the EU provides significant benefits to the scotch whisky trade.

“With the President of the EU Commission saying just this week that it would be ‘difficult, if not impossible’ for an independent Scotland to negotiate EU membership it is becoming clear that that best way to keep Scotland in Europe and protect jobs is to stick with the UK family.

“That is why Liberal Democrats are making the case for Scotland staying in Britain, in Europe – and in work.”

WTO chief warns UK over EU exit

Catherine Bearder MEP - South East EnglandRoberto Azevêdo, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, has warned that Britain may risk losing influence in trade negotiations if it were to quit the EU during a hearing this morning at the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee.

In response to a question from Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder, who asked what impact leaving the EU would have on the UK’s place within the WTO, Mr Azevêdo stated:

“I think that’s a call that the UK will have to make for itself.”

“But of course, the more that a country or a member is in a position to join with others in defending a particular idea or defending a particular agenda, the easier it is to push through its interests.”

Ms Bearder, Liberal Democrat Trade Spokeswoman in the European Parliament, commented:

“UKIP and many Tories claim we can just pull out of Europe and trade using WTO rules, but now even the head of the WTO has turned round and said we are better off staying in.”

“Being part of the world’s largest trading bloc allows us to get a better deal for Britain and to open up new markets for our businesses overseas.”

“Liberal Democrats are the party of In Europe because In is good for jobs, the economy and Britain’s influence on the world stage.”

A number of leading British business organisations have previously spoken out to emphasise the benefits that EU membership brings when it comes to global trade negotiations.

In a report in November 2013, the CBI stated that “the EU has helped open global markets to UK firms on terms that support its trading ambitions, through its leading role in global trade negotiations.”

Meanwhile the EEF manufacturers’ association has stated following a 2013 survey of its members that “UK manufacturers recognise the benefits a strong EU voice in global trade agreements and disputes brings to UK exporters…There is no support for the UK to tackle trade negotiations alone, not least because of the concerns that a deal with the UK would be a lower priority for countries that are currently agreeing deals on a multilateral basis.”

The Scotch Whisky Association has also stressed that “the EU is vital to the industry’s long term sustainability, both as an internal market and as a strong voice in international trade negotiations.”

Graham Watson: Airbus Group UK says EU single market key to its success

Sir Graham Watson MEP

Airbus Group UK has joined the growing list of major employers who have come out strongly in favour of Britain staying in the EU.

Robin Southwell, President of Airbus Group UK has said that the company’s success depended on “an effective partnership of countries and companies within Europe, which only collectively can deliver the scale required to be globally successful”.

During his speech at a company event tonight in London, he also implied that eurosceptics must come up with a viable alternative economic model that would not undermine growth and employment in the UK.

Airbus currently employs 17,000 people in the UK, mostly at its plants at Filton near Bristol and Broughton in North Wales, where wings are made for the group’s civil aircraft. In total, the company estimates that around 100,000 jobs are generated in the UK by Airbus wing work, both directly and in the supply chain.

Sir Graham Watson, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South West, commented:

“Airbus Group is one of the most successful companies in Europe and has created thousands of highly skilled manufacturing jobs in this country.

“Key to its success has been the ability to trade freely in a single market of over 500 million.

“Liberal Democrats, as the party of In, are determined to defend Britain’s membership of the EU and the massive economic benefits that it brings.

“We cannot let the eurosceptics win the argument and throw our economic recovery away.”

Notes to Editors

Robin Southwell is due to give a speech at an Airbus Group UK reception in London at 19:30 GMT, 21st January 2014

In his speech Mr Southwell will state that Airbus employs 17,000 people in the UK.

The company estimates that around 100,000 jobs are generated in the UK by Airbus wing work, both directly as well as indirectly through an extended supply chain of over 400 companies

Ludford: Ford could reassess UK business in case of EU exit

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEPFord has warned that it could reassess its business in the UK if the country were to leave the EU.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Stephen Odell, Chief Executive of Ford Europe, said that by quitting the EU Britain would be “cutting its nose off to spite its face.”

He added: “I would strongly advise against leaving the EU for business purposes, and for employment purposes in the UK.”

Mr Odell said that while there was understandable concern about some of the rules and regulations coming from Brussels, the UK would still have to comply with many of these outside of the EU and that it was therefore better to push for reform from within.

Ford, which employs almost 15,000 people across the UK, is one of Britain’s largest foreign investors and manufacturers. A third of the world’s Ford engines are assembled at its plants in Bridgend and Dagenham.

London Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford commented:

“We cannot ignore the message from major employers about the importance of the EU for jobs and growth. Yanking us out of Europe, as UKIP and many Conservatives would like to do, would risk seriously damaging Britain’s economy.

“Foreign investment would go down, unemployment would go up and Britain’s influence on the rules that matter to businesses would be seriously diminished.

“Liberal Democrats, as the Party of In, are committed to reforming the EU from within to make it work better for Britain. Our focus must be on creating jobs and sustaining the economic recovery, not throwing it all away by turning our back on our biggest trading partner.”

Lib Dem MEP Leader Fiona Hall on Business for Britain report

Commenting on the report by campaigning group Business for Britain which calls for firms that do not export to the rest of the EU to be exempt from EU regulations, Leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs Fiona Hall said:

“Ironically, this proposal would lead to less business for Britain and an increase in red tape. Having multiple sets of rules would carve the British economy in two and create a bureaucratic nightmare for businesses seeking to expand into the rest of Europe. 

“Liberal Democrats have led on reforming the EU to improve its competitiveness, including by exempting small businesses from costly accounting requirements. This should be everybody’s priority. 

“Rather than putting forward half-baked proposals, Business for Britain should be honest and admit that their real intention is to pull us out of the EU altogether, something which businesses in the UK are overwhelmingly against.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable added:

“One in 10 jobs in the UK rely on trade with the EU. By being in the EU, British businesses also benefit from a common set of rules to do business and attract foreign investors. We should be supporting all British businesses to take advantage of the single market, not holding them back by shutting the door on the biggest trading block in the world.”

Bennion: EU triples rail innovation funding to £380mn – beneficiaries to include Bombardier and Network Rail

The European Commission today announced £380mn of EU funding for rail innovation under the EU’s new research programme for 2014-2020, three times more than the amount for 2007-2013.

The new public-private partnership, called “Shift2Rail,” consists of eight founding members including the UK’s Network Rail and Canadian firm Bombardier, which employs over 3000 across the country including at a major factory in Derby.

Phil Bennion MEP, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesman in the European Parliament, commented:

 “This funding will give a significant boost to the UK rail industry and the thousands of people it employs. Continue reading

Hall: New opportunities for UK universities and businesses as £12.5bn EU research funding announced

The European Commission has announced that from today, universities and businesses across the UK can apply for £12.5 billion worth of European funding under the first of two years of the EU’s latest research programme.  The new EU framework, Horizon 2020, will be the world’s largest research programme with an overall budget of over £65 billion over the next seven years. Areas due to be prioritised in 2014 and 2015 include energy efficiency, digital security and healthcare.

UK universities have been particularly successful at accessing funding under the current framework, receiving more than higher education institutions in any other EU member state. In total, the UK has received almost £4 billion of EU research funding since 2007.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs Fiona Hall commented:

“EU research funding brings huge benefits to the UK economy, helping to drive innovation and create jobs in some of our most cutting-edge sectors. Every £1 of EU research spending leads to an estimated £11 of added value to industry. Continue reading

Bowles: Goldman Sachs may reconsider London as a hub if UK quits EU

Sharon Bowles MEPLiberal Democrat MEP Sharon Bowles today warned of dramatic job losses in the financial sector if the UK were to leave the EU, after co-CEO of Goldman Sachs Michael Sherwood said his company would be likely to ‘drastically reduce’ its activities in London in case of an EU exit.

Speaking to German newspaper Frankfurte Allgemeine Zeitung, Mr Sherwood warned:

“In all likelihood we would transfer a substantial part of our European business from London to a Eurozone location – the most obvious contenders being Paris and Frankfurt.”

Goldman Sachs currently employs around 5500 people in London compared to just 200 in Frankfurt.

Commenting, Chair of the European Parliament Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee Sharon Bowles said: Continue reading

Bowles backs EU proposal to close corporate tax loophole

Sharon Bowles MEPChair of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee and Liberal Democrat MEP Sharon Bowles, has today pledged to support EU plans to close a loophole which has allowed large corporations to avoid paying their fair share of tax.

Amendments to the EU’s corporate tax legislation, proposed by Taxation Commissioner Algirdas Semeta, will introduce an anti-abuse clause which will prevent companies including Google, Amazon, Starbucks, and Apple from stockpiling their profits in countries with lower tax rates.

Ms Bowles has led calls for the introduction of country-by-country reporting in the EU to clamp down on aggressive corporate tax avoidance. Continue reading

Hall: Siemens to stop investment if Britain leaves EU

The managing director of Siemens UK, which employs 13,000 people across the country, has warned that his company would stop investing in factories in the UK if it was not part of the EU. He added that leaving the EU would be “disastrous” for British manufacturers. This follows a poll last month which found that eight out of ten manufacturers want to remain in the EU.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs Fiona Hall commented:

“The message from business is loud and clear, it’s in Europe in work.

“Thousands of jobs are created each year by foreign investors who see Britain as a launch-pad into the world’s largest single market. Leaving the EU would mean losing that status and putting crucial jobs and investment at risk.” Continue reading