Following a shockingly strong win for the Conservative Party in the recent United Kingdom elections, re-elected Prime Minister David Cameron promised an "in-out referendum" on the future of the U.K.'s membership within the European Union before the end of 2017. The referendum has its roots in the understandably unpopular red tape and bureaucracy that affects British business prospects within the E.U., especially with regard to the trade bloc's employment laws and health and safety issues. In spite of this, Cameron's announcement was met by fairly strong opposition within a study surveying a grouping of Britain's most influential business leaders.
While British business perspectives differ on which route the country should take in its relationship with the E.U. depending on multiple variables and preferences, the general consensus of the survey found that the British economy was too intertwined with the E.U. to seriously consider breaking ties completely with the trade bloc. Pan-European trade agreements that have eliminated tariffs for U.K. businesses exporting to the E.U. have enabled European markets to become the largest export markets for British goods, especially in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Ireland, and Belgium. Furthermore, the unrestricted movement of labor within the E.U. has benefited the British economy through the supply of skilled and cost-efficient labor from countries like Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, and Romania.
In spite of these economic links to the continent's markets and labor force, the U.K. international business community still desires its government representatives to mend the U.K.'s relationship with the European Union. Current annual membership fees within the E.U. cost Britain as much as $23 billion a year, regulations have made British businesses less competitive within the trade bloc, and there have been international legal concerns regarding conflicting trade laws adopted in London and Brussels. Consistent fluctuations in the exchange rate between the euro and pound sterling also provide another issue that British businesses hope could be resolved through further reformation of the relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
In summary, while issues continue to persist between the United Kingdom and European Union, the call made by British business leaders against leaving the E.U. clearly highlights the significance of regional trade blocs in the global economy. Despite the rise of nationalist and conservative government policies throughout the E.U. and international system, this example highlights that the strong economic incentives and multilateral dependencies that regional trade blocs create provide evidence that the global economy is continuing to move down a path of further integration rather than dissolution.