Business Leaders: Ever-Closer European Union Has Failed

Some of Europe’s largest companies urge national leaders to reduce barriers to business activity and trade.

View of The Shard skyscraper in London, England, April 15, 2012
View of The Shard skyscraper in London, England, April 15, 2012 (Flickr/Johnas)

European business leaders have urged policymakers to resist “ever-closer union” in favor of a more open and flexible continent.

“The idea that all European countries should march in step, in order to meet more and more requirements from Brussels, has failed,” they argue.

In letters published in Britain’s Sunday Times, Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Sweden’s Dagens Industri, the chief executives of the EasyJet airline, retailer H&M, the HSBC and Standard Chartered banks, Germany’s Dr Oetker food company and East London Tech City, among others, lament that the EU’s agricultural and regional development subsidies as well as its many business regulations inhibit their ability to compete abroad.

They call on European leaders to reduce barriers to international trade and fully liberalize the internal market for services, which they believe could add 2.3 percent to the combined gross domestic product of the countries in the European Union.

They further recommend that the European “social model” and welfare state are overhauled, “otherwise Europe will continue to lose in the global race and imperil the social and political peace it has built through the decades.”


National leaders in countries outside the eurozone, particularly Sweden and the United Kingdom, sympathize business’ desire for an open and more flexible Europe.

Prime Ministers Fredrik Reinfeldt and David Cameron, and to a lesser extent the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte, have warned the members of the single currency union against integrating too deeply, which could undermine economic and political competition between them.

German dilemma

Germany doesn’t want a protectionist Europe that is overly dependent on regulations and welfare, neither within nor between countries.

But even as it tries to persuade southern member states to reform labor regulations and welfare regimes to become more competitive, it cannot rely on the United Kingdom as an ally because it might very well leave the European Union altogether when it calls a membership referendum, probably in 2017.

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