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August 02, 2013

77% of UK firms want EU referendum

More than three-quarters of UK businesses would welcome "the re-negotiation of Britain's relationship with the European Union".

That's according to the British Chambers of Commerce's quarterly 'EU Business Barometer' survey, which is based on responses from 3,906 businesses of all sizes and sectors in the UK.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) survey tested five scenarios for Britain's future relationship with the EU and questioned when a referendum should take place. Respondents were also asked for their opinions on the likely impact of each scenario on Britain's business and economic prospects.

The results suggest that:

  • 77% of businesses support a referendum on EU membership, with just 14% against and 9% not sure;
  • 43% believe that a referendum should only take place "after negotiations have run their course" in 2017, compared with 34% who want a referendum before 2017;
  • 61.4% wanted the UK to remain in the EU, but "with specific powers transferred back from Brussels to Westminster";
  • 'full withdrawal from the EU' received the "highest negative impact rating", with 53.6%, although in Q1 this figure was 60%.

"These results show that British businesses remain determined to see a recalibrated relationship between the UK and the rest of the European Union, with more powers exercised from Westminster rather than Brussels," said John Longworth, BCC director general.

"Our survey shows that businesses reject both the Europhile dream of further integration and the Europhobe dream of a complete exit from the EU, provided a satisfactory renegotiation is achieved. For the quiet majority of companies, the status quo is not an option. Ministers must pursue reform and renegotiation as a priority.

"More than three-quarters of the businesses we surveyed support a referendum on Britain's EU membership. It is true, however, that companies are split on when this referendum should be held – with around 43% saying that it should happen only after negotiations are completed, compared to 34% who want a referendum far sooner. This shows that there is impatience amongst a significant number of companies for greater clarity on the UK's position," he concluded.

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