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Nearly 41% of small UK firms want to leave EU-survey

[LONDON] Nearly 41 per cent of Britain's small business community want to leave the European Union because they do not believe membership is beneficial for their companies, a survey has shown ahead of a referendum likely next year.

The research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found that 47 per cent of members surveyed wanted to stay in the 28-member bloc while 10.7 per cent of members were undecided.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's ties with the EU and then, by the end of 2017, hold a referendum on whether to stay in or leave. Most observers expect the vote to be held next year.

Many of those wanting to stay in the union, including the leaders of some of Britain's biggest companies, have made their argument one of economics, saying Britain's EU membership gives it access to open markets and millions of consumers.

However smaller firms have been more likely to complain about the amount of so-called "red tape" they face as part of the membership, such as business and health and safety regulations.

The FSB said that only 41 per cent felt informed about the vote from a business point of view.

"Regardless of what a firm's current position is, there is a shared message that small businesses feel they lack clear, impartial information on which to form their views," said Mike Cherry, FSB policy director.

According to the survey, those members who are most likely to vote to stay in are those who export and import to the EU, those who employ non-UK EU nationals and members based in Scotland, London and Northern Ireland. Women were also more likely to back membership than men.

Those members wanting Britain to leave the EU would instead like to see improved trade links with the rest of the world and with the EU and its member states. The FSB said it received responses from 6,263 of its members.

Two recent surveys of the British population have shown that the number of Britons wanting to stay in the EU has fallen since the government agreed to amend the wording of the question to be put to voters.

REUTERS