Survey shows businesses’ priorities concerning EU membership

Almost two-thirds of businesses have admitted their opinion on EU membership is set to stay the same after this week’s talks in Brussels.

On the eve of discussions involving Prime Minister David Cameron, which are expected to result in a deal, a British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) survey reveals that the renegotiation process is having little effect on business opinion.

The BCC’s study shows that 63 per cent of senior businesspeople are unlikely to change how they will vote regarding the UK’s EU membership.

The ‘Remain’ camp is presently two-to-one ahead among business voters with the strongest support coming from those exporting only to the EU.

In contrast, those who export only outside the EU have expressed the strongest support for leaving.

North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Babs Murphy, said: “It would appear that company bosses have already made up their minds about EU membership irrespective of any renegotiated membership.

“What is telling is that their views reflect their own interests with economic choices taking precedence over any political beliefs.”

The BCC’s previous survey on Europe took place in September last year before the present renegotiation process.

Half of those surveyed said they would reconsider their voting intentions based on the package of reforms secured by the Prime Minister.

That dropped to 34 per cent when this latest survey of more than 2,000 senior business leaders was conducted in January this year when the renegotiations were in full swing.

The survey’s findings seem to suggest it is the referendum which is important to the business community rather than any package of reforms secured.

At the moment, 60 per cent of those questioned about a referendum say they would vote to remain in the EU – down three per cent from September – with another 30 per cent voting to leave, up three per cent.

“When we last surveyed Chamber members in September, we did not know the detail or ambition of the Prime Minister’s renegotiation package,” said John Longworth, the BCC’s Director General.

“Our findings are a wake-up call for both the Remain and Leave camps. Neither side can bank on a change to business opinion in the wake of any renegotiation settlement.”

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