Two-thirds of British business owners favour a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU in the upcoming parliament, according to a survey by Britain for Business.
The report Britain and the European Union: What business thinks is based on a survey of more than 1,000 business leaders – 70% of whom are from small businesses.
It suggests 66% are explicitly in favour of a referendum. This is compared to just 26% who are actively against it.
More than half (56%) of those polled also believe the terms of the EU treaty must change to effect “meaningful change” of our relationship with the EU. An increased focus on trade is the primary change they want to see.
Small business leaders are more likely to believe that the costs of conforming with EU regulation outweigh the benefits of operating within the single European Market, according to the survey.
Almost half (47%) said they agree with this statement, compared to 43% of medium-sized business owners and 39% of those who run large companies.
Many business leaders want to see a shift in trading focus to concentrate on newly industrialised countries (NICs). These include China, Brazil and South Africa and represent a shift in economic power away from the EU.
More than half (58%) of respondents said NICs should be the main targets when looking to build new economic and trading links. Medium-sized business owners (69%) are most likely to favour this approach.
Business for Britain campaign director Robert Oxley claimed that Labour’s attempts to portray business leaders as anti-referendum are “as misguided as they are cynical”.
“Just like voters, business leaders back a referendum as it’s the best way to secure meaningful change to our relationship with the EU,” he said.
“Sticking with the status quo while only paying lip service to ‘reform’ is guaranteed to harm Britain’s prosperity and business competitiveness.
“Many of the same arguments used against a referendum today were deployed a decade ago to try and railroad Britain into joining the Euro. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.”