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February 19, 2016

Have businesses made up their mind on the EU?

Have businesses made up their mind on the EU?Nearly two-thirds of senior business people say that the outcome of the Prime Minister's current renegotiation is unlikely to change how they will vote in an EU referendum.

These findings are the result of a major new survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). The results show that 60% would vote to remain in the EU, down slightly from 63% when the Chambers last polled members in September 2015, and 30% would vote to leave - up from 27%. But 63% said any renegotiation would not change their view at this stage.

The survey polled 2,000 senior business people. Those representing large firms are significantly more likely to vote to "remain" than those in small and micro-businesses. Not surprisingly, firms' international orientation is a major factor, with opinion varying based on whether and where firms export.

"Our findings suggest that for business people, this is a question of in or out - not renegotiation," said John Longworth, BCC director general.

"Our findings suggest that the renegotiation is having little impact on day-to-day business - or the vote of the BCC's business community, since many made up their minds before knowing the outcome of negotiations, effectively discounting them as irrelevant."

Longworth described the results as a "wake-up call" for both camps. "Neither side can bank on a change to business opinion in the wake of any renegotiation settlement."

Key findings in the survey include:

  • 60% of business leaders would vote to stay in the European Union should the vote take place tomorrow;
  • 30% would vote to leave;
  • 63% said Cameron's renegotiation was "unlikely" to influence their vote;
  • 43% said the EU referendum was "very important" to their business.

If the UK were to leave the EU, 39% of business people polled said they expect this would have a negative impact on their overall growth strategy while 36% said it would have no impact and 17% said it would have a positive impact.

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