With the Prime Minister beginning his negotiations on an improved deal for the UK’s membership of the European Union ahead of a referendum, possibly in 2017, what impact would an exit mean for jobs in the UK?
Business groups are happy to see the relationship reformed, but most are concerned about the possible divorce which would mean leaving such a huge trading market, with a population of hundreds of millions.
There are a lot of European companies that are based in the UK and the prospect of an exit would raise serious concerns about investment and jobs in the long term.
There is no doubt that jobs would be lost – we already have difficulties because of exchange rates, tariffs and treaties. It’s difficult to see how a European company would see the UK as an attractive option standing alone.
Just look at Airbus as an example. The plane maker works in partnership to benefit manufacturing and jobs, with the UK, France, Germany and Spain all involved in building the final product.
Some estimates have put the number of British jobs dependent on membership of the EU at over three million.
The basic argument is that membership creates and safeguards jobs because it provides access to a market of around 500 million consumers, which in itself attracts more foreign investment.
Also, around two-thirds of manufacturing jobs in the UK have some links with the EU, so the economic importance here is key.
Workers have benefited from employment legislation thanks to the EU.
Just look at the protection of employment rights when firms are taken over or merge, the entitlement to four weeks holiday, protection for agency workers and part-time workers, as well as maternity and paternity rights.
It is well worth remembering these have all been brought in thanks to the EU.
While unions will be looking at reforms to improve the lives of working people and their members, they will also be on the side of protecting workers’ rights.
This is something that many fear the Tories will want to pull away from.