The Institute of Management has launched one of the most outspoken attacks yet by a business association on the Government's policy towards Europe, claiming the Conservative approach has damaged British interests abroad.
In its pre-election manifesto, the institute, which has 76,000 members, insists the UK must be at the centre of the debate over the single European currency. Urging a policy of "constructive engagement," the manifesto says there are dangers in the way the UK is perceived in Europe.
It says: "A consistent policy tone of distance and disengagement, and at times belligerent confrontation, has damaged the UK's best interests."
Though the institute does not formally ally itself with any political party, the document will be seen as a clear boost for Labour as the party attempts to improve its standing with the business community. It says the judgement over whether or not to join the currency should only be taken on economic grounds and it calls on the Government to say whether it would rule out taking part in economic and monetary union.
The manifesto also distances the body from the Government's attack on the Social Chapter, calling instead for a "more mature debate" on the issue. "For some large organisations the Social Chapter does not hold many fears," it says.
It also accuses the Government of obstructing companies' attempts to get EU grant aid. It concludes: "The present Government's frequently antagonistic stance towards the EU does not help UK organisations or regions to benefit."
Education policy also comes in for attack, with the institute arguing that the system has failed to match standards of the UK's global competitors.
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