Do businesses favour change in Britain’s relationship with EU?

european_unionDo businesses favour change when it comes to Britain’s relationship with EU? NSBL looks at the the results of a related survey that polled businesses in the region.

Findings from the latest Business West Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) released last week have revealed a growing desire from businesses to change the UK’s relationship with the European Union (EU).

The Business West survey mirrors the results of the first major survey of British business following the Prime Minister’s policy speech on Europe in January 2013, which reveals broad support for the re-negotiation of Britain’s relationship with the European Union.

The British Chambers of Commerce’s new “EU Business Barometer”, which gathered responses from nearly 4,400 businesses of all sizes and sectors across the UK, tested five scenarios for Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

Full withdrawal from the EU

Respondents were asked to give their view on the potential impact of each scenario on Britain’s business and economic prospects.

One of the scenarios was ‘remain in the European Union, but with specific powers transferred back from Brussels to Westminster’. This received the highest positive impact rating, with 64% of respondents favouring this.

‘Full withdrawal from the European Union’ received the highest negative impact rating though, with 60% responding negatively. Suggesting full withdrawal is not a pressing priority for business owners.

Looser relationship

Phil Smith, Managing Director of Business West, comments: “Businesses across the West Country are echoing the same sentiments revealed in the BCC’s EU Business Barometer survey.

“47% of local businesses that responded to our latest QES survey stated that they favoured staying in the EU but that a looser relationship should be negotiated, with just 15% saying that we should leave the EU.

“The QES also revealed that businesses had mixed feelings on the advantages of a Single Market.

“The British Chamber’s survey and our own QES results say a lot about the UK business community’s attitudes towards Britain’s relationship with the European Union.

“Companies believe that re-negotiation, rather than further integration or outright withdrawal, is most likely to deliver business and economic benefit to the UK.”

The Business West survey is made up of responses from more than 500 local businesses.

Dr Liam Fox MP

Dr Liam Fox MP

Business response

NSBL has been discussing this issue with business leaders and politicians in the region.

Colin Skellett, who is Executive Chairman of Wessex Water, said we need to get the issue of Europe out of our system.

He comments: “I believe that we need to be in Europe because of our position as an international trading country. Obviously lots of things need to change but the idea we can be insulated from Europe isn’t right.

“It’s the Severn Barrage writ large – the more it is discussed and debated the more confidence can drain away. Too much time talking about how we want to leave Europe can erode confidence and make business think – do we actually want to invest in the UK?

“I think we need to get the issue of European membership out of our system. We do need to change and negotiate our position and push hard for change; but from within. We need to be part of Europe but make it more efficient.”

Less and less important

Dr Liam Fox MP, a long-term advocate of a re-negotiated settlement, believes the EU is becoming less important as countries outside it prosper: “On the economic issue the cumulative amount of money we have lost as a country due to EU regulation stands at around £124bn over the past decade. This is a loss that many of our global competitors do not have to bear.

“The EU is becoming less important as countries like China, Brazil, Russia and Australia continue to prosper. In fact the EU is actually part of the problem as to why we are not trading more with these countries.

“Being hamstrung by the problems in Europe has narrowed our horizons and meant that we have ended up exporting more to Ireland than we do to Russia and China. Although the latest trade data suggests this could be changing.

“We are in a unique position and could have a strong economic relationship with the rest of the world without legal intervention and business regulations that are directed from Brussels.”

If you are a business owner and have a view on the matter please contact us on: 01934 422 692

 

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