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EU has its faults but leaving would be a huge mistake.

Byline: ALISON THAIN

IT'S fair to say that the public has been bombarded by arguments from both sides in the referendum on the future of the UK's relationship with the European Union.

And given that this is most likely the biggest decision the British people will make in their lifetimes, this is quite understandable.

The vote will have serious implications for our economy, jobs and opportunities for the next generation and so it's important to look at the facts - and where facts have been skewed at best, or are deliberately inaccurate at worst.

The CBI speaks on behalf of 190,000 businesses, together employing around 7m people in the UK. As CEO of Thirteen Group and regional chair for CBI in the North East, I declare an interest because the overwhelming majority of these firms - business of all sizes and sectors - believe that it is better for their company, for jobs and for North East prosperity to remain inside the EU So what do we know? Well, we have a clear idea of the business view. It's not just the CBI saying this - every business survey carried out, from small businesses and the creative industries to giant motor manufacturers and tech firms, finds a majority saying that we are better off in.

Economic evidence from independent experts show that the UK will face a serious economic shock in the event of leaving the EU. The IMF, the Bank of England, the Treasury, the OECD, the London School of Economics and many more are telling us this; the UK economy will be smaller with a vote to leave.

We know that our allies and friends want us to remain inside the EU. We know that prices would likely go up in the event of Brexit - supermarket bosses, airlines, energy providers and many others have said this. Even ahead of the vote, the pound has seen a big drop in its value, making imports more costly and summer holidays more expensive.

We know we enjoy the benefits of over 50 trade deals with the rest of the world. Choose to leave and we run the risk of losing access to these and starting again from scratch - a daunting task given the most recent agreement between the EU and Canada took seven years.

We've also got the best universities in Europe and British universities receive more EU funding than any other country. EU collaboration in R&D is creating new opportunities, helping our great universities become even better.

We also know that the EU is not perfect and has its faults, but the Prime Minister's reforms will make a genuine difference over time and significant opportunities are on the horizon. Not least, the new digital single market - from big retailers to entrepreneurs selling out of their spare rooms, 450 million new customers would be just a click away. It is within reach if we remain in the EU.

Leaving the EU would mean a real economic shock, putting jobs and living standards at risk. Those pushing to leave may shout that this is scaremongering but the prospect being outside of the EU is pretty chilling for the future of North East jobs, investment and opportunities.

Alison Thain, North East chair of CBI

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 14, 2016
Words:539
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