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Manufacturers urge Britain to hold speedy EU referendum in 2016
[LONDON] Britain must "get on with it" and hold its planned referendum on whether to leave the European Union no later than next year to avoid a long period of damaging uncertainty, the country's leading manufacturing association said.
Prime Minister David Cameron, re-elected on May 7, has pledged to reshape Britain's ties with the EU before holding an in-out membership referendum by the end of 2017 but has said he could hold it earlier if talks go well.
The EEF group, which represents manufacturing, engineering and technology giants such as Rolls Royce, BaE Systems and around 20,000 firms in total, said the referendum ought to be held as early as May 2016 or during the autumn of next year.
"Having trailed this since early 2013 the government must surely have a clear idea of its proposed areas for negotiation and it must now be a priority to get on with it," Terry Scuoler, EEF's chief executive, said.
EEF, once called the Engineering Employers' Federation, made its call ahead of an announcement on Wednesday of Cameron's legislative plans for his new Conservative government.
High on Mr Cameron's agenda will be details of his referendum plan.
Eighty-five per cent of British manufacturers supported the country's continued EU membership and it would make no sense to disengage from a major export market while having to keep the bloc's rules to maintain trade access, Scuoler said.
Other business groups have also called for Britain to remain in the EU. Last week, the biggest employers group, the Confederation of British Industry, urged company bosses to make the case to voters for staying in the bloc.
The Bank of England said last week that it planned to assess the implications of a possible British exit from the EU.