Businesses favour change in Britain’s relationship with European Union

The British Chambers of Commerce’s new “EU Business Barometer”, which gathered responses from nearly 4,400 businesses of all sizes and sectors across the UK, tested five scenarios for Britain’s future relationship with the EU. Respondents were asked to give their view on the potential impact of each scenario on Britain’s business and economic prospects.

The results showed that nearly 65 per cent of those questioned wanted to remain in the European Union, but with specific powers transferred back from Brussels to Westminster.

The survey also reveals that British business’s “top three” priorities for any re-negotiation of the balance of competences between Brussels and Westminster are  that there are changes to employment law, and also health and safety legislation as well as changes to regional development policies. Other areas where significant numbers of businesses wanted to see change included justice and home affairs policies and public-sector procurement rules.

Commenting on the results, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, 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.

“There are some striking features in our survey of business opinion. 42%, a plurality, now believe that maintaining the status quo in Britain’s relationship with the EU could have a negative impact on our economic interests – nearly three times as many as the 15% 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 our trading prospects.

“We now have confirmation of what we’ve suspected for some time: namely, that employment and health and safety are the areas where companies would like to see legislative competence return to Westminster from Brussels. From a business perspective, any re-negotiation of Britain’s relationship with the European Union must therefore focus on these areas which are not integral to the functioning of the Single Market in goods and services.”