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FSB finds small businesses are split over EU exit

21 Sep 2015

A survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has found that UK SMEs are split on the question of whether Britain should exit the European Union, but with a slight majority currently intending to vote to stay in at the forthcoming referendum.

The FSB’s study examined responses from 6,263 of its members. It found that 47% of members would vote ‘yes’ to stay in, and around 41% would vote to leave. Just over 10% said they were still to make a decision.

A slender majority of FSB members - some 50.5% - reported that they thought the UK's existing EU membership was good for the economy as a whole, but only 34.9% said they believed it was beneficial for their particular businesses.

The report also found significant regional variation in attitudes to EU membership. Scottish firms were the most likely to vote ‘yes’, with 59.9% wanting to stay in, followed by London businesses (55.4%) and businesses in Northern Ireland (54.2%). The area where firms were most likely to vote ‘no’ were the East Midlands, where 48.7% favoured an exit, and Yorkshire and the Humber (47.8%).

One of the most striking findings was that a clear majority of small businesses said that they did not have access to sufficient unbiased information about the potential impacts of exiting the EU. Only 19.2% of FSB members surveyed said they felt ‘very well informed' about the referendum from a business point of view.

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."