Westcountry businesses ‘vote’ to stay in the EU
Westcountry business owners are almost evenly split between the UK retaining or abandoning EU membership.
At a time when the Prime Minister, David Cameron, is battling with his own back-benchers over the promised EU referendum, Westcountry business owners have voted – marginally – to stay in.
In a snap-survey conducted among 177 Westcountry business owners, a slight majority (52%) said “Yes, our business definitely benefits – directly or indirectly – from UK membership of the EU”.
Almost as many (48%) said “No, if the UK leaves the EU it will have no effect on our business”.
The survey was conducted by Westcountry-based Top 40 accountants, Bishop Fleming, among the clients of its offices in Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth, Torquay, Truro, and Worcester.
Support for continued EU membership was stronger when asked about wider implications for the Westcountry.
61% acknowledged the importance of EU membership for securing grant-funding for Devon and Cornwall, subsidies for farmers, and attracting international inward investors into the Westcountry.
“Nonetheless”, said Matthew Lee, Managing Partner at Bishop Fleming, “39% of our respondents point out that most of the Westcountry’s top 150 companies are locally owned businesses that could adjust to life outside the EU.
“This should provide a wake-up call to Mr Cameron”, said Mr Lee.
He points out that the Westcountry’s economy has major EU-owned players, like EDF, Augusta-Westland, and Airbus. “Withdrawal from the EU could have an impact on how those companies view their investment in the UK”, he warned.
“But the Westcountry’s business community is different to most other regions: most of our companies are locally owned enterprises that are not dependent on the EU.
“Maybe Mr Cameron should consider whether the EU issue would have been better managed if we voters were encouraged to take EU elections as seriously as a general election.
Tiny turn-outs have elected a variety of minority parties with differing views on the EU”, said Mr Lee.