Findings from a British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) survey show that British businesses favour re-negotiating the relationship with the European Union. It is likely that business opinion is being affected by the continued weak growth seen across the EU.
The BCC’s new EU Business Barometer asked more than 4,000 businesses, of all sizes and sectors across the UK, about their opinion on the relationship with the EU. Participants were tested on five scenarios for Britain’s future relationships with the EU and were asked to give their view on the potential impact each would have on Britain’s business and economic prospects.
John Longworth, Director General of the BCC, said, “These results say a lot about the UK business community’s attitudes towards Britain’s relationship with the European Union. Companies believe that re-negotiation, rather than further integration or outright withdrawal, is most likely to deliver business and economic benefit to the UK.”
‘Remain in the EU, but with specific powers transferred back from Brussels to Westminster’ receive the highest positive impact rating with 64 per cent. This scenario also received the lowest negative impact rating with, 11 per cent.
Businesses believed that fully withdrawing from the EU would have the most negative impact, with 60 per cent of businesses agreeing it would be a bad move. ‘Remain in the EU with no change to current relationship’ received the lowest positive impact rating, with 15 per cent.
The woes facing many European countries are likely to have impacted on a business’ options. Falling demand across the EU has meant that orders have fallen for British businesses placing pressure on cash flow. As a result many companies have considered expanding into emerging economies to offset losses.
Whether businesses are operating in the EU or further afield it’s vital for businesses to ensure they are adequately protected against bad debt and late payments. International credit reports enables businesses to see how viable a potential customer or supplier is before entering into an agreement.
Mr Longworth added, “There are some striking features in our survey of business opinion. 42 per cent, a plurality, now believe that maintaining the status quo in Britain’s relationship with the WU could have a negative impact on out economic interests- nearly three times as many as the 15 per cent who view the status quo positively.
“These findings suggest that UK businesses increasingly feel that some sort of change to Britain’s relationship with the EU is needed to boost out trading prospects.”
The survey also revealed the top three priorities for any re-negotiation if the balance of competences between Brussels and Westminster. Number one was employment law (54 per cent) followed by health and safety law (46 per cent) and regional development policies (33 per cent). Other areas that businesses wanted to see change included justice and home affairs policies and public-sector procurement rules.
The survey follows the Prime Minister’s policy speech on Europe in January and shows that there is broad support for re-negotiation amongst businesses.