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Accountancy firm calls for informed debate on EU future

EU future

​CCAB, the forum for accountancy bodies in the UK and Ireland has called on businesses to increase their engagement in the debate for EU reforms.

The forum is keen for British and Irish businesses to ensure they are aware of the information and resources available to them in order to gain a better understanding of the role played by the EU and how its relationship with businesses can be made more effective.

The call comes on the back of a new CCAB-commissioned report, 'Business in Europe: Research Reforms for Sustainable Growth', which suggests that businesses need better access to clear and accurate information.

The report, which was based on in-depth research with senior influencers in the accountancy profession, added that information presented to business leaders would also need to be backed up by discernable evidence, stressing the importance of ensuring a debate on EU reform is well-informed on all sides.

Increase efficiency and productivity

The view shared in the report claims that many business leaders in the UK are convinced that reform would help to increase efficiency and productivity for firms dealing with the EU.

However, the report also highlighted a disconnect between the two parties, with a section of businesses still unclear as to what role the EU takes, while also lacking clarity on the reforms being proposed.

The view of the EU as being a distant body to UK business was a one shared by many of the senior influencers within the accountancy profession to respond the research, but the overall sentiment towards the EU was largely positive.

The general consensus outlined in the in-depth research was that EU regulation affecting the UK was beneficial and that British business largely benefitted from the country being a part of the EU as it allowed companies to push for a more effective and sustainable business models.

However, many accountancy professionals still want greater transparency and accountability at EU level, as well as more measures to facilitate greater movement of labour, and a clearer statement of national and EU responsibilities.

Communication was another key theme to emerge, with many respondents stating that communicating an operating model for the EU with a rigid set of principles and responsibilities ahead of the referendum was a crucial part of helping businesses decide on whether to remain in the EU.

'Important contribution' to debate

The report has largely been welcomed by a number of experts, including Tony Nicholl, CCAB Chairman, who said: "We believe that this report, and the discussion that it has provoked, can be an important contribution to the debate.

"It includes some clear recommendations on how reform could be used to transform the EU relationship and set a new foundation for collaboration on areas of mutual interest.

"It provides a valuable insight into the views of UK business leaders, which I hope our political leaders will take on board."
Bernie Coyne of Coyne Research, co-author of the report with Brían Merriman added: "Business leaders are calling for greater transparency and accountability from the EU along with a commitment to address the democratic deficit whereby decisions affecting member states are often taken by unelected officials in Brussels.

"The research suggests that there is a need for greater consultation between the business sector and EU legislators to provide a more effective and sustainable model."

There appears to be something of a split among business leaders about whether to stay in the EU, with the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), hinting that British business may possibly be better if the UK was to exit.

The reforms mentioned in the report were the source of scorn for BCC director-general John Longworth, who told Sky News earlier this month: "With the reforms that we have received so far, the UK would be better off taking a decision to leave the European Union."

That statement threatened to bring into question the clarity around the reforms championed by Prime Minister David Cameron, but it ultimately cost Mr Longworth his position at the BCC, with the organisation unhappy that its pledge to remain impartial in the debate had gone ignored, culminating in his resignation.

According to BCC president Nora Senior, keeping an air of neutrality "reflects the real divisions that exist in business communities across the UK”.

“All representatives of the BCC have the right to personal and political views on the key issues of the day. However, they are not expected to articulate these views while acting in their professional capacity, as their views could be misconstrued as representing the position of the organisation as a whole.”

It seems CCAB is just as keen to preserve that impartiality in the weeks leading up to the vote on whether Britain should remain in the EU.