West Country businesses favour remaining in the EU by a ratio of over 2 to 1

By Anita Jaynes on 18 March, 2016

A survey has found that the majority of West Country businesses are concerned about the risks of leaving the EU, and favour staying in the union over leaving by a ratio of over 2 to 1.

The results, based on Business West’s Local Business Survey of over 750 businesses in Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire in February and March, found that:

·57% of businesses plan to vote to remain in the EU, compared to 26% that would vote to leave – a 2:1 ratio.

·Over a third (39%) of businesses feel they need more information before making an informed decision

·Almost two thirds of exporters (65%) would vote to remain in the EU

·The significant majority of firms believe that leaving the EU would pose a risk to the UK economy (78%), and their business (68%)

·When asked about the Prime Minister’s reform package, three quarters of businesses said that it hasn’t affected their voting intentions

Commenting on the survey findings, Phil Smith, managing director of Business West, said:

“West Country businesses have differing views on Europe, but a clear majority favour staying in the European Union, with over twice as many business people saying they will vote to stay in the union rather than voting to leave.

“Those businesses who want to stay in the EU say that easy access to the EU Single Market and the greater ability to attract new investment into the UK are major benefits. These firms are worried that leaving the EU would jeopardise the ability to sell into the UK’s largest market and hurt the economy. Other businesses are worried about the uncertainty that leaving the EU would bring, and the lack of clarity about what a potential ‘Brexit’ would look like.

“Over two thirds of businesses feel that leaving the EU would pose a risk to their business, and over three quarters believe is would pose a risk to the UK economy.

“Those that want to leave think the EU is too big and too bossy, and that costly regulations are a barrier to their growth. This is notable in particular sectors such as chemicals and food and drink industries, and on some smaller businesses where regulations like the Working Time Directive are seen to be an unnecessary burden.

“As the region’s leading business organisation, our role in the referendum debate will be to represent the views of our members in a proportionate and informed way. One of the key messages to come from these findings is the need for better quality, independent, trusted information. Businesses need facts, rather than having to sieve through the noise from both sides. Up until now businesses think there has been more heat than light in the campaign.

“Over a third of businesses told us that they need more information before making an informed decision, and the key to this debate is just that – an informed decision.

“Over the next three months Business West will continue to  go out and talk to businesses of all sizes and sectors  to listen to how the EU affects their day to day trade.  We will be publishing balanced information on how the EU affects local businesses, and the economy as a whole. This will be shared with businesses via factsheets and  events

“June 23 marks the political date of the decade, and it is imperative that businesspeople have all the facts at their disposal before going to the ballot box.”

Pictured above: Phil Smith, managing director of Business West