Around four in ten (41%) SME business leaders see working within the EU as a hindrance rather than a help to their business, according to a survey commissioned by Shore Capital chairman Howard Shore.
The poll of 601 owners and senior managers from small and medium sized businesses suggests only 20% see the EU as a positive influence on their ability to conduct business.
Around four in ten (42%) respondents also said they would be more likely to employ staff if regulation was cut. Subsequently only one-quarter back greater integration with the EU – while 54% would like to see less.
Around three-quarters (74%) of respondents favour bringing control of trading practices back from Europe and into the hands of the British government.
Business for Britain chief executive Matthew Elliott said that business leaders would be a “key voice in the debate” when the referendum on EU membership comes around in 2017.
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“They are the people that the public will turn to for advice about the impact that either a vote to leave or a vote to remain could have on jobs and living standards,” he continued.
“It is very important that the public knows what business thinks about Britain’s membership of the EU. There have been lots of attempts by various organisations to speak for British business in this debate.
“There have been numerous polls and surveys although, sadly, they have often left out SMEs.”
Elliott added that “the picture that this poll produces is one of an SME community that is very sceptical of the EU”.
“They reject the rationale for the single market, they want to see the burden of regulation reduced and also want to see fundamental changes made to Britain’s membership.
“They also want to see the British Government back in charge of key policy areas, including employment law, working qualifications and health and safety regulation.”