Business Secretary Vince Cable supports the UK's membership of the EU and doubts it will leave (Reuters)
Vince Cable dismissed fears that the UK will quit the European Union, insisting the chances are "very remote" despite the threat of an in/out referendum in 2017.
The Liberal Democrat business secretary was speaking at an economic in conference in Frankfurt. His own party backs the UK's membership of the EU and fought against efforts among their Conservative coalition partners to hold a referendum on the divisive issue.
"If you are a business person quantifying risk, I would say maybe 5%. No more," said Cable in Germany, reported Reuters. "There is a risk, but it is a small risk."
Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, said there will be such a referendum in 2017 if he is elected at the next general election.
He backs a renegotiated continued membership of the 28-state EU. However, he caved in to political pressure from his vociferous eurosceptic backbenchers over holding a referendum when they began to question his leadership of their party.
A plethora of business organisations have come out in support of Cameron's stance of a renegotiation of the terms of the UK's membership, but they want to retain free access to the single market. Europe is the UK's largest trading partner.
Business wants a reduction in the red tape stemming from Brussels, in the areas of employment and health and safety law in particular.
A survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) found that 61.4% think remaining in the EU is the best outcome for them.
A separate survey by EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, found 85% of its membership backing membership.
An independent survey of 101 UK-based financial services bosses by the lobby group CityUK found that 84% wanted Britain to remain part of the EU.
Two Goldman Sachs bosses have warned that the City of London's many financial firms would flee the UK if it were to quit its membership of the EU.
Michael Sherwood and Richard Gnodde, co-chief executives of investment banking behemoth Goldman Sachs International, said their institution would sweep staff away from London and into a rival European city to maintain their access to the lucrative single market.
"We are going to be part of that economy. There is no scenario under which we will not be participating," said Sherwood. "The only question is: do we do it all from here?"
He added: "Every European firm would be gone in very short order."
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