Richard Ottaway
Richard Ottaway, chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, thinks the UK should stay in the EU (YouTube)

London businesses back a renegotiation of the UK's membership with the European Union, according to a new report.

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) report, called Help or Hindrance: The Value of EU Membership to London Business, found that the majority want to remain a part of the European single market.

Prime Minister David Cameron is planning an in/out referendum if the Conservatives are elected at the next general election.

Business benefits from the free movement of labour, which provides skilled workers who cannot be found in the British population, and access to many European trading partners without stinging tariffs and other blocks to trade.

However, they say they want EU regulations, such as employment law, to be relaxed. They also want regulations to be enforced fairly across EU member states, so there is no competitive advantage in countries more relaxed about upholding certain rules than the UK.

Richard Ottaway, A Conservative MP and chairman of parliament's foreign affairs select committee, spoke at the event in support of the UK's membership of the EU.

IBTimes UK caught up with him.

Q: How optimistic are you that David Cameron can deliver a favourable renegotiated EU membership for the UK?

Richard Ottaway: I believe there is one widespread enthusiasm inside the EU for reform. I think the potential to have a reformed EU is good. I believe that he will be able to come to the British people and say I've got quite significant improvements here, which go a long way towards the criteria that I am chasing.

What will be far more difficult is to have our own special deal. There may be some scope for minor things, but I think a more general reform is the probable outcome.

Q: How realistic is the prospect of the UK withdrawing from the EU?

RO: Personally, I am prepared to put money on in the year 2020 Scotland being part of the UK, and the UK being part of the EU.

Q: While you are confident that we will remain in the EU, do you think calling a referendum was a mistake?

RO: I think this is a debate that has been bubbling away now for a number of years. A lot of the engagement - or lack of engagement - between the British people and the EU is because we now have a complete generation that has never been asked about that relationship.

Something has got to be done. We have got to put the debate to bed and get on making a very positive contribution to a very successful market.

Q: How do you convince the wider public that we should remain in the EU, who perhaps derive their views from a populist media which frames the debate in terms of bendy bananas and so on?

RO: When you point out to them that when they go across the channel, they go as a right. If you're going to start needing visas to go to different countries in Europe, immediate it has an impact. There's over a million Brits with homes in the EU, all of who would start to lose those homes.

So these are the day-to-day type things.

When they start to realise that jobs will be lost, that the economic performance of the country will be weaker, and you bring it home to people, I think they will start to concentrate on the real impact.

Q: Why, when real pay is being cut and bills are rising, should people accept the relaxing of EU employment law?

RO: We're not competitive enough and we're not productive enough as a country. We have to work harder. Either through inventing technology to assist us, or actually taking our jackets off and getting on with it.

British people are pretty sensible people. When suddenly is dawns on them that their job's on the line here, and if they go on supporting an unworkable, uncompetitive, unproductive regime, I think they will back it.

You can't run a nice cosy advertisement and then people say yeah, that's the right thing. You've got to appeal to their self-interest.

The reason why the EU is unpopular is because people have never really concentrated on the benefit it brings them. People just see these silly debates put out by the Daily Mail and the Spectator, papers like that, attacking the EU without actually looking at the positive arguments.

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