A group of 27 business leaders, in an open letter to The Times of London newspaper, have called for a quick resolution to the row over Britain's stance on European Community monetary and political union.
"Above all, we are anxious to see an early resolution of the UK's position. . .Continuing uncertainty over the Maastricht treaty and our future in Europe is already having a damaging effect," said the group, which is headed by Confederation of British Industry President Michael Angus.The government is due to vote Wednesday whether or not to proceed with the move toward ratifying the Maastricht treaty on EC union. However, a growing number of skeptics have said they will vote against the motion, suggesting the possibility of a defeat for the ruling Conservative Party.
"British businesses can win a larger share of a more rapidly growing market. There is a danger that, amid the current debate around the Community's future direction, the prize of completion of the single market will be overlooked," the letter to The Times states.
It further pointed out that the single market is more than just a free trade area and that ratification of the Maastricht treaty would assist with developing the regulatory framework and ensuring that the single market process advances.
"We are also concerned about the signal a failure to ratify the treaty would give about our future position in Europe. The UK's ability to attract inward investment, which is critical for our economic future, would be weakened if we were seen to become semi-detached members," the group said.
They said the Maastricht treaty must not be abandoned and they said that while early re-entry into the EC's exchange rate mechanism is not likely to be feasible, "we should not close off the option to re-enter."
Meanwhile, Board of Trade President Michael Heseltine was quoted as saying that a defeat for the UK government in Wednesday's Maastricht Bill vote in the House of Commons would lead to a "policy vacuum of incalculable destructiveness."
His warning came as a leading Conservative Euro-rebel claimed up to 37 Tory members of Parliament were prepared to inflict a defeat on Prime Minister John Major over the bill.
Mr. Heseltine insisted the government would not lose Wednesday's vote.