Business leaders warn on Europe

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BUSINESS leaders yesterday delivered an eve-of-summit warning to the Government about the dangers to the economy if Britain does not remain at the heart of the European Community.

Sir Michael Angus, president of the Confederation of British Industry, said the UK's economic future would be weakened if we were seen to become a 'semi- detached' member of the EC.

In a letter to the Prime Minister ahead of the Birmingham summit, Sir Michael urged John Major to press ahead with ratification of the Maastricht treaty and completion of the single market.

'We are concerned about the signal a failure to ratify the treaty would give about our future position in the Community,' he said. That would undermine our ability to attract foreign investment and slow down progress towards the single market.

Sir Denys Henderson, chairman of ICI, warned that the option of Britain 'going it alone' in Europe was 'just not on'.

Speaking in Glasgow, Sir Denys said that it was critically important for business that Britain remain a committed and influential member of the EC. 'If the German, French and Benelux countries decide uncompromisingly to proceed with the Maastricht treaty, but without UK support, then we run the real risk of being marginalised in the EC decision- making process.'

Sir Denys said this 'could have serious, long-term consequences for British business and the general well-being of this country'. The belief that Britain could operate in isolation from an otherwise united Europe would, he said, 'be an act of national self-delusion of the highest order'.