2 million SMEs say EU hinders their business

A new poll of SME business leaders has found that a majority of them believe that the EU is hindering their business, that powers should be brought back from the EU and that they reject the rationale for the single market.


Europe flags_316350617The poll, commissioned by Chairman of Shore Capital, Howard Shore, was carried out by Perspective Research Services for Business for Britain in August 2015.

Howard Shore, Executive Chairman of Shore Capital Group, said, “If I had to establish my business in today’s regulatory environment, with so much interference from the EU in the way businesses operate, I’m not sure it would have been possible. We commissioned this research so that millions of hard working entrepreneurs across the United Kingdom had a voice in this once-in-a-generation debate. Only with successful wealth creators can we grow, employ more people and pay for the public services we all deserve.”

Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of Business for Britain, said, “Business opinion is divided over Britain’s relationship with the EU, yet a majority of SMEs – the lifeblood of the economy – want to see powers flowing back to Britain. It is particularly damning that by two to one SMEs think the EU is hindering them, not helping them, and this shows why Britain must take back control of how it trades in a dynamic, globalised economy. The EU has shown itself ill-equipped to deal with the challenges it faces, hurting business and costing jobs. We must end the supremacy of EU law over British law.”

Click here to read the full report

Key findings:

SMEs believe that the EU is hindering their business

Over 2.1 million smaller business leaders (41%) believe that the EU is hindering their business. That is twice as many as the 20% who believe it helps them.

Businesses want powers brought back from the EU

Twice as many businesses want powers brought back from the EU as would prefer to see more power given to the EU:

There is a strong view that the UK should be in charge of key areas of policy rather than the EU institutions: 4.4 million SME owners (84%) say that the UK should be in charge of employment law; 4.2 million (81%) say that the UK should be in charge of working qualifications; and 4.1 million (79%) say that the UK should be in charge of health and safety legislation.
2.8 million leaders of smaller businesses (54%) would like either like the EU to be a less integrated free trade area or would want complete withdrawal from the EU.

Just 26% would like to see a more integrated EU or a European government.
There is a strong view that the UK should be in charge of key areas of policy rather than the EU institutions: 4.4 million SME owners (84%) say that the UK should be in charge of employment law; 4.2 million (81%) say that the UK should be in charge of working qualifications; and 4.1 million (79%) say that the UK should be in charge of health and safety legislation.

Businesses reject the rationale for the EU single market

Just 25% of business leaders agree with the rationale for the Single Market – that ‘common EU rules make trade and business easier and the Single Market is good for jobs and living standards’. Over 3.5 million SME owners (69%) believe that the UK can trade and cooperate with Europe without giving away permanent control over its economy.

Businesses want real EU reform

Over 3.6 million SME owners (70%) believe that the Prime Minister must negotiate a new Treaty in order to secure a ‘meaningful change’ in the UK’s relationship with the EU, with the largest support (76%) coming from those who have 10-49 employees.

Over 3.8 million SME owners (74%) believe that the British Government should handle negotiations of trade agreements. Only 22% say that the EU should handle international trade agreements.

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About the survey:

A telephone survey of 601 small and medium sized enterprise (SME) owners was conducted by Perspective Research Services for Business for Britain in August 2015.

SMEs are defined as businesses with less than 250 employees. They account for 5.2 million businesses and 99.9% of all UK businesses, thus more accurately representing the views of British business people.

The poll asked for their views on the EU and what changes they would like to see made to the UK’s terms of membership. The data is weighted to give equal weight to each of the categories of sole traders (180); those who employ 1-9 people (151); those who employ 10-49 people (150); and those who employ 50-250 people (120). The survey was also designed to elicit responses from businesses throughout the UK regions, including Northern Ireland and from 13 different sectors of industry.

Of those surveyed 5% (29) were members of the Confederation of British Industry; 27% (163) were members of the Federation of Small Businesses; 11% (67) were members of the Institute of Directors; and 21% (128) were members of their local Chamber of Commerce. More than half, 51% (308) were not members of any of these organisations.

The number of SMEs supporting each position was calculated by using the most recent edition of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ business population statistics (2014).