15/04/13

  • BCC’s EU Business Barometer of more than 4,000 businesses shows support for renegotiation with Europe
  • John Longworth: “Companies believe that re-negotiation, rather than further integration or outright withdrawal, is most likely to deliver business and economic benefit to the UK.”

The first major survey of British business following the Prime Minister’s policy speech on Europe in January 2013 has revealed broad support for the re-negotiation of Britain’s relationship with the European Union.

The British Chambers of Commerce’s new “EU Business Barometer”, which gathered responses from nearly 4,400 businesses of all sizes and sectors across the UK, tested five scenarios for Britain’s future relationship with the EU. Respondents were asked to give their view on the potential impact of each scenario on Britain’s business and economic prospects.

The results showed that:

  • ‘Remain in the European Union, but with specific powers transferred back from Brussels to Westminster’ received the highest positive impact rating, with 64%. This scenario also received the lowest negative impact rating, with 11%.
  • ‘Full withdrawal from the European Union’ received the highest negative impact rating, with 60%.
  • ‘Remain in the European Union with no change to current relationship’ received the lowest positive impact rating, with 15%.

The survey also reveals that British business’s “top three” priorities for any re-negotiation of the balance of competences between Brussels and Westminster are 1) employment law (54%), 2) health and safety law (46%), and 3) regional development policies (33%). Other areas where significant numbers of businesses wanted to see change included justice and home affairs policies and public-sector procurement rules.

Commenting on the results, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“These results say a lot about the UK business community’s attitudes towards Britain’s relationship with the European Union. Companies believe that re-negotiation, rather than further integration or outright withdrawal, is most likely to deliver business and economic benefit to the UK.

“There are some striking features in our survey of business opinion. 42%, a plurality, now believe that maintaining the status quo in Britain’s relationship with the EU could have a negative impact on our economic interests – nearly three times as many as the 15% who view the status quo positively. These findings suggest that UK businesses increasingly feel that some sort of change to Britain’s relationship with the EU is needed to boost our trading prospects.

“We now have confirmation of what we’ve suspected for some time: namely, that employment and health and safety are the areas where companies would like to see legislative competence return to Westminster from Brussels. From a business perspective, any re-negotiation of Britain’s relationship with the European Union must therefore focus on these areas which are not integral to the functioning of the Single Market in goods and services.”

Ends 

Notes to editors:

The BCC surveyed 4,387 businesses during late February and early March 2013.

The results of the five scenarios tested by the BCC are below. Each scenario was tested independently, and businesses were asked whether they believed each scenario would have a positive impact, a negative impact, or no impact on Britain’s business and economic prospects. A ‘don’t know’ option was available.

  • FULL WITHDRAWAL FROM EU: 60% of companies surveyed feel that a scenario that sees Britain withdraw fully from the European Union would have a negative business and economic impact. However, nearly 1 in 5 (18%) now believe that full withdrawal could have a positive impact. 10% believe this would have no impact, and 12% are unsure.
  • WITHDRAWAL FROM EU FOLLOWED BY A TRADE AGREEMENT: business opinions shift substantially when this option is presented. Fully one-third (33%) of companies believe this scenario could have a positive impact, while 42% view it negatively, 9% say no impact, and 16% are unsure.
  • REMAIN IN EU WITH SPECIFIC POWERS TRANSFERRED BACK FROM BRUSSELS TO WESTMINSTER: 64% of companies surveyed currently believe that a scenario that sees Britain remaining in the EU, but with powers transferred back from Brussels to Westminster, could have a positive impact on Britain’s business and economic prospects. 11% felt this scenario could have a negative impact, and 14% foresee no impact. 11% are unsure.
  • REMAIN IN EU AND INTEGRATE FURTHER WITH OTHER EU MEMBER-STATES: 23% of firms state that a scenario that sees Britain integrate further with the rest of the EU would bring business and economic benefits. 48% view such a scenario negatively, and 13% believe it would have no impact. 17% are unsure.
  • REMAIN IN EU WITH NO CHANGE TO CURRENT RELATIONSHIP: maintenance of the status quo appears to have declining appeal for British business, with 42% viewing this scenario as having a negative impact, compared to 32% who believe it would have no impact and only 15% who believe it could have a positive impact. 11% are unsure.

The BCC will test all five scenarios regularly throughout 2013 and 2014 to establish whether businesses’ views on the potential economic impacts change over time.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) sits at the heart of a powerful nationwide network of 53 Accredited Chambers of Commerce, serving over 104,000 businesses across the UK, which employ over five million people. For more information visit: www.britishchambers.org.uk

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