• BCC’s EU Business Barometer of nearly 4,000 businesses continues to show support for renegotiation with Europe
  • The vast majority of businesses surveyed showed support for a referendum on EU membership
  • The most popular option for when any referendum should take place is after negotiations have run their course
  • John Longworth: “The status quo is not an option. Ministers must pursue reform and renegotiation as a priority.”

A major quarterly survey of British business has revealed continued broad support for the re-negotiation of Britain’s relationship with the European Union.

The British Chambers of Commerce’s ‘EU Business Barometer’, which gathered responses from nearly 4,000 businesses of all sizes and within all sectors across the UK, tested five scenarios for Britain’s future relationship with the EU, and asked about possible timescales for any referendum. 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:

  • 77% of businesses support a referendum on EU membership, compared with 14% against and 9% unsure.
  • In terms of timeframe, nearly half of businesses (43%) believe that a referendum should only take place after negotiations have run their course, compared with 34% who feel that a referendum should be held before 2017.
  • ‘Remain in the EU, but with specific powers transferred back from Brussels to Westminster’ received the highest positive impact rating, with 61.4%. This scenario also received the lowest negative impact rating, with 11.5%.
  • ‘Full withdrawal from the European Union’ again received the highest negative impact rating, with 53.6%, although this is down from the 60% seen in Q1.

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

“These results show that British businesses remain determined to see a recalibrated relationship between the UK and the rest of the European Union, with more powers exercised from Westminster rather than Brussels.

“Our quarterly survey shows that businesses reject both the Europhile dream of further integration and the Europhobe dream of a complete exit from the EU, provided a satisfactory renegotiation is achieved. For the quiet majority of companies, the status quo is not an option. Ministers must pursue reform and renegotiation as a priority.

“More than three-quarters of the businesses we surveyed support a referendum on Britain’s EU membership. It is true, however, that companies are split on when this referendum should be held – with around 43% saying that it should happen only after negotiations are completed, compared to 34% who want a referendum far sooner. This shows that there is impatience amongst a significant number of companies for greater clarity on the UK’s position.” 

Ends

Notes to editors:

The BCC surveyed 3,906 businesses between May 20 – June 12 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: 53.6% of companies surveyed feel that a scenario that sees Britain withdraw fully from the European Union would have a negative business and economic impact, down from 60% in Q1. However, nearly 1 in 5 (19.5%) now believe that full withdrawal could have a positive impact (up from 18%). 11.4% believe this would have no impact, and 15.6% are unsure.
  • WITHDRAWAL FROM EU FOLLOWED BY A TRADE AGREEMENT: business opinions shift substantially when this option is presented. Over one-third (35.6%) of companies believe this scenario could have a positive impact (up from 33%), while 36.7% view it negatively (down from 42%), 9% say no impact, and 18% are unsure.
  • REMAIN IN EU WITH SPECIFIC POWERS TRANSFERRED BACK FROM BRUSSELS TO WESTMINSTER: 61.4% 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 (down from 64%). 11% felt this scenario could have a negative impact, and 13% foresee no impact. 14% are unsure.
  • REMAIN IN EU AND INTEGRATE FURTHER WITH OTHER EU MEMBER-STATES: 17.9% of firms state that a scenario that sees Britain integrate further with the rest of the EU would bring business and economic benefits (down from 23%). 51% view such a scenario negatively (up from 48%), and 13% believe it would have no impact. 178% 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 47% viewing this scenario as having a negative impact (up from 42), compared to 30% who believe it would have no impact (down from 32%) and only 7% who believe it could have a positive impact (down from 15%). 15% 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.

Media contacts:

Lisa Morrison – Press and Communications Manager

020 7654 5812 / 07717682221

Allan Williams – Press and Communications Officer

020 7654 5813 / 07825746812

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) sits at the heart of a powerful network of 53 Accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK, representing thousands of businesses of all sizes and within all sectors. For more information visit: www.britishchambers.org.uk