International Trade

Most businesses want an EU referendum

2 min read

31 July 2013

The majority of businesses want a referendum on the UK's EU membership, according to research by the Chambers of Commerce.

The majority of British businesses back a referendum on British EU membership, figures from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) show. The survey of 4,000 firms found 77 per cent in favour of a referendum, compared with 14 per cent against and nine per cent unsure. 

Membership of the EU is an increasingly contentious issue, and David Cameron has promised a vote on the matter if the Conservatives win the next election. 

Businesses have traditionally been seen as in favour of membership, which grants them free access to the EU’s market of more than 500m consumers. This is particularly useful for Britain’s export-focused SMEs who don’t have to pay any trade tariffs on goods  and services sold in europe. But some argue that SMEs are overburdened with red tape and that membership costs too much money. 

But the research did show that, despite supporting a referendum, retaining membership is still a popular option for businesses. Just 20 per cent think that full withdrawal would have a positive impact, and around a third believe withdrawal followed by a trade agreement would be a good thing. 

The most popular option would be to remain in the EU but with specific powers transferred back from Brussels, with 61 per cent in support.  

John Longworth, DG of the BCC, says: “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.”

The Japanese government last week intervened to say a lot of jobs could be lost if the UK were to end its membership. 

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