David Cameron’s pledge for an in/out referendum before the end of 2017 has divided business leaders and politicians up and down the country.

"For the CPA the most important thing is we get growth in the economy and inward investment," communications and external affairs director Simon Storer told TTJ. "This referendum throws in some uncertainty.

"The feeling we get from international companies is that pulling out of Europe would be the wrong thing to do. But for a lot of small companies that are based in the UK and work only in the UK they see this from a UK perspective."

Many companies were impacted by EU regulation, he added, and may see benefits in being freed from red tape.

James Southern, chairman of timber merchant MH Southern & Co Ltd, said he agreed with the prime minister’s position but the four-year wait for a referendum created a long period of uncertainty.

"I believe we must remain in the EU single market to enable the UK to trade freely and easily with Europe but we require less red tape and legislation from Brussels governing how we go about our business and daily lives," he said.

John Brash & Co chairman Christian Brash said the UK must make it easy for Europeans to buy British.

"They are our next-door neighbours; it is a big market and therefore it is a cost effective distribution network," he said.
"Whilst all remember the EU for its ‘daft stuff’ like straight bananas, everyone should appreciate how much the EU has done to raise standards. The new EUTR regulation is a good example of how the EU is raising the bar on a sustainable timber future."

He said the failure of the EU to date was insufficient enforcement of its policies, especially in the newer "frontier countries", resulting in poor quality product entering the British supply chain.