Small businesses are split over the UK’s continued membership of the European Union, a new survey has revealed.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) poll showed 47 per cent backed remaining a member of the European Union with 41 per cent wanting to leave.
The strongest support came from Scotland, where 60 per cent of small business owners would vote yes if the referendum was held today but English firms are divided with 45 per cent supporting staying in the EU and 43 per cent wanting the UK to get out.
Just over half of FSB members (50.5 per cent) who took part said EU membership was good for the economy as whole but that number fell to 34.9 per cent when asked if it was good for their own businesses.
London is the home of the strongest support for EU membership in England (55.4 per cent) with backing in Northern Ireland standing at 54.2 per cent and the North East of England 51.3%.
The East Midlands leads the regions opposed to staying in (48.7 per cent) with opposition in Yorkshire and the Humber running at 47.8 per cent, the West Midlands 47 per cent and the East 42.6 per cent.
A third of those who took part in the poll said they wanted more information on the impact on business and the UK economy of a Brexit, a British exit from the 28 nation EU.
Clifton Asset Management chairman Adam Tavener said: “The fact that the SME community appears to be so evenly split on this suggests that there is no clear wrong or right answer. There is, however, a lack of clarity and verifiable facts, with one load of statistics and assertions being produced from the one camp, only to be hotly disputed by the other.
I think the majority of us would welcome the repatriation of some powers from Europe, a federal EU wasn’t something that was in the original sales pitch, however, a common trading area and free movement of labour remain exceptionally good ideas (current migration issues notwithstanding).[/standing]
The Scottish referendum showed, if nothing else, that jingoistic nationalism only serves to distract and debase. In this crucial referendum it is vital that both sides stick to the facts, as far as they can be proven, and don’t get tempted into the sort of tactics we saw in Scotland. ”
Mike Cherry, FSB Policy Director, said: “The study attempts to understand current attitudes towards EU membership among our members. This research is a vital starting point in outlining the key issues and areas of concern for small businesses in the EU referendum debate. Regardless of what a firm’s current position is, there is a shared message that small businesses feel they lack clear, impartial information on which to form their views.
“This is only the beginning of our work to support our members throughout this complex debate. Our role will be to ensure the small business voice is heard in the discussion, and that our members have all the information they need to make a decision which is right for them and their business.”
For more information go to http://www.fsb.org.uk/policy/assets/fsb%20eu%20research%20project%20-%20september%202015.pdf