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The EU is failing to provide British retailers with a more open market and is swamping businesses with red tape, the BRC warned today.
In a letter to Will Straw, executive director of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said businesses were becoming increasingly fed up with Europe’s failure to make good on its trade potential - as well as the ever-increasing bureaucratic burden.

“We believe that the impetus in the EU towards a more open trading environment is waning,” she said.

“In particular, we see slow progress being made in the EU’s trade negotiations with key partners including the US and Japan. Our concern for the future is that within the EU our trading relations with other countries will become more not less restricted, making it more difficult for retailers to offer a full range of products at the best prices to our customers.”

Dickinson also warned remaining in Europe could hold back innovation.

“We believe that the EU is culturally more disposed to regulate than the UK and therefore within the EU the UK will always feel stifled by the legislative burden from Europe,” she added.

“More concretely, we see regulatory processes in Europe that are cumbersome, slow and unable to keep pace with the constant evolution of the marketplace, which can lead to legislation that is out of date as soon as it comes into force.”

However, Dickinson, whose organisation has promised to remain neutral, also raised fears in the second of her Brexit letters about the consequences of a UK departure from Europe.

Writing to Matthew Elliott, chief executive of Vote Leave Westminster, she said businesses would struggle to cope without the single market and warned thousands of farms risked becoming unviable.

“In particular, there is a real threat that trade with the rest of the EU will be slower, subject to more red tape and more expensive as a result of the introduction of customs duties and formalities,” said Dickinson, who explained there was huge uncertainty surrounding what would happen to a raft of EU laws on trade and employment if the UK left.

She added: “On food, we note that more than 50% of UK farm income is accounted for by CAP payments. According to the NFU, without these payments many farms would be unviable.”

Dickinson said in a statement: “The BRC will not be advocating for one side of the campaign or the other, but instead press both campaigns to make it clear what their policies would be remaining in, or leaving, the EU, so that people can make an informed choice at the referendum. The economy is just one of a wide range of issues at stake; alongside those that cover the consequences for UK sovereignty and immigration and each will weigh differently with different people.”