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UK business unswayed by PM’s EU renegotiations

ALMOST two-thirds of senior businesspeople polled in a British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) survey say the outcome of the PM’s EU renegotiation is unlikely to change how they will vote.

And that’s despite big majorities saying they are familiar with the objectives of the renegotiation package.

While views vary between business sectors, those exporting solely to the euro zone expressed the strongest support to “remain”, while those exporting in non-EU states professed the most virile calls to “leave”.

The findings show that the renegotiation process is having little impact on business opinion.

A September 2015 BCC’s survey on Europe – conducted before the renegotiation process began – found that half (50%) of those surveyed would reconsider their voting intentions based on the package of reforms secured by Cameron.

The BCC said its latest findings suggest the referendum itself is deemed more important to the business community rather than any reform package.
Some 60% said they would vote to remain, down 3% from September, while 30% would vote to leave – up by the same percentage – from 27%.

Bigger firms are “significantly more likely” to vote to remain’ than those in small and micro-businesses, the survey reveals.

Commenting on the results, John Longworth, director general of the BCC, said: “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.

“Our findings suggest that for businesspeople, this is a question of in or out – not renegotiation. Business remains divided on Europe, and business leaders’ views reflect the size of their firm and their export interests, rather than the current political debate. They are making rational economic choices based on their own interests.

The results were “a wake-up call” for both the “remain” and “leave” camps, he added with neither side able to bank on a change to business opinion in the wake of any renegotiation settlement.

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Philip Hammond
Philip Hammond