Strong words from big employers

Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard a series of forecasts from independent experts both at home and around the world about the potentially disastrous consequences of leaving the EU for British jobs and workers and our standard of living.

But we don’t have to take their word for it. To get the view from my own constituents, I’ve been visiting locally-based businesses in Yorkshire & Humber — including small businesses and some of the biggest employers in the region.

Last week I visited BASF, a major local employer with a highly successful polymer manufacturing facility in Bradford, to learn about their work and hear their views on our EU membership. This is clearly a company that takes both employment and civic responsibilities very seriously, with an excellent long-term partnership between management, the trade union and the workforce. They also take on apprentices, hold regular meetings with the local community, have an educational programme through their kids’ club, and work with nearby universities on research and development.

BASF has taken it upon itself to conduct a series of referendum workshops at its various sites in the UK. The aim of these workshops was to provide staff with factual information about EU-related issues, and to prompt discussion.

Although the company is careful to present both sides of the argument, and emphasises that it has made no attempt to tell its staff how to vote, it has (separately) also expressed a clear view of its own about the value of EU membership for the company itself.

BASF supports continued British membership of the European Union. We welcome constructive engagement by the UK in EU debates.

We particularly welcome UK support for the single market, international free trade, innovation, and policy based on scientific evidence. Both the UK and the EU benefit from a larger internal market. Both benefit from the avoidance of further fragmentation and duplicate regulations.

In respect of the referendum outcome, Remain or Leave, BASF will respect to the democratic decision of the British people. Our position however will continue to state that we believe the UK is better off within the EU.

They were particularly scathing about the Leave campaign’s suggestion that Britain could somehow make better trade deals from outside the clout of the world’s biggest market:

We prefer the certainty of the deals we have, and the EU’s ability to deliver new deals.

BASF is by no means exceptional. Similar views have been expressed to me across Yorkshire & Humber, by telecoms firms, food processing companies, airport bosses, supermarket chains, small IT start-ups, colleges and universities, power and water utilities, farmers and many more. I’ll write about these, too, on my blog in the coming weeks.

It’s not just academics and researchers who are apprehensive about the dangers of Brexit — it is our local businesses and employers on the ground.

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