Small firms ‘want to stay in EU’ to keep trading links

Almost two thirds of the 1,600 companies surveyed by SME networking business BNI said staying in the EU would be better for business, reports The Telegraph.

Entrepreneurs said the proximity of a huge market with similar ways of doing business and open trade gave them a “an extension of their local trading ground”.

The verdict from small businesses over Britain’s EU membership echoes the point made by the bosses of some of the UK’s biggest companies last month.

Business leaders, including Sir Richard Branson, Sir Roger Carr and Sir Martin Sorrell, said that the economic case for remaining in the union is “overwhelming”, with membership boosting the UK economy by as much as £92bn a year. They warned that an exit would lose the UK 37 trade agreements and the “colossal bargaining power” of the 27-nation bloc.

Small companies often make their first overseas deals with EU partners before venturing further afield and the single market accounts for more than half of all UK exports.

The Conservatives have set out plans for an “in/out” referendum that “must be held” before the end of 2017. Charlie Lawson, BNI national director, said: “It’s clear that small businesses value Britain’s EU membership. We believe the referendum will further corroborate this.

The feedback we’ve had is that SMEs regard the EU as an extension of their local trading ground. They enjoy the ease of travel and trade as well as closely aligned business practices. It would be a mistake to raise doubts over ever-increasing business ties with our closest neighbours.”

The survey also revealed that 70pc of Scottish businesses want to remain part of the UK.
With the EU referendum up to four years away, Mr Lawson said the key issues facing small businesses this year remain “the banks’ abilities to lend sufficiently and general dissatisfaction with the Government’s ability to provide robust support to enterprise”.

Only 38pc of respondents said they were confident that banks would meet their lending requirements. However, 76pc said they were confident about their trading prospects for this year and next.