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British Chambers of Commerce Response to

the Business, Innovation & Skills Committee


Inquiry: Business views on EU Referendum

About the BCC


The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) sits at the heart of a network
comprising 52 Accredited Chambers of Commerce in the UK, as well as a fastgrowing Global Business Network.
In the UK, our network brings together over 70,000 member businesses, and
engages with a further 200,000 non-member companies each year. Overseas,
our Global Business Network offers practical, on-the-ground help to UK exporters,
and supports two-way trade.
BCC Position
The BCC at national level has taken a neutral position on the EU referendum, and
will not campaign for either side. This is because views amongst accredited
Chambers of Commerce - the BCCs shareholders and Chamber members are
diverse. So at a national level, we have adopted and will maintain a neutral
stance. Individual local Chambers may choose to take a view on one side or the
other. So, too, can individual businesspeople in Chamber membership. Thats
their prerogative, and the BCC has no input on their decision in this respect.
These differences of opinion locally are exactly why the BCC, as a national
umbrella body, maintains a neutral stance. The BCC has and will continue to
survey Chamber member companies across the UK, report their diverse views,
and inform the debate.
Surveys of Chamber business views
The BCC has polled business leaders over a number of years on attitudes
towards the EU, initially through the EU Business Barometer between 2013 and
2015, and latterly through a programme of tracking research which began in
August 2015. The fieldwork dates of the three surveys are as follows; 4 August
2015 to the 17 August 2015; 22 January 2016 to the 7 February 2016; and 5 April
2016 to the 15 April 2016. Each survey received responses from between 2,000
to 2,300 business leaders from all UK regions and nations.
In our most recent survey of more than 2,200 respondents, conducted online
between 25th January 2016 and 4th February 2016 via an independent MRSaccredited research supplier, we sought to measure business attitudes on
present levels of engagement with the debate; impacts businesses have faced
from the referendum announcement to date and anticipated effects of a
withdrawal from the EU; familiarity with the PMs EU renegotiation strategy and
potential impacts; and voting intentions if a referendum was held tomorrow. This
survey was carried out before an agreement was reached amongst EU leaders to
reform the UKs relationship with the EU at the February European Council
summit, and before the 23 June referendum date announced.
Business engagement with the debate (Feb 2016)
1

Respondents were following the EU debate closely, with 66% reading about it at
least weekly, and a further 22% at least every fortnight.

Business impacts (Feb 2016)


Over eight in ten respondents report no material impacts on orders/sales,
recruitment, investment or costs of the planned referendum on their businesses
to date. If the UK were to leave the EU, 39% expected this would have a negative
impact on their overall growth strategy; 36% expect it would have no impact;
and 17% expect it would have a positive impact. When asked about the
importance of the EU referendum on the UKs membership to their business, 43%
of respondents say it is very important, compared to 7.9% who say it is not at
all important to their business.
Businesses reform and renegotiation priorities (Feb 2016)
The majority of respondents say they are familiar with the PMs renegotiation
package: safeguards for non-Euro countries (68%); boosting competitiveness by
reducing red-tape (64%); UK exemption from ever closer union (70%); and
restricting EU migrants access to tax credits (81%).
Respondents were asked what impact each of the PMs measures would have on
their business, if achieved. 67% of respondents reported that the proposal to
boost competitiveness by reducing red-tape would have a positive impact on
their business (with 22% reporting no impact and 4% reporting a negative
impact); 42% said safeguards for non-Euro countries would have a positive
impact (with 38% reporting no impact and 8% reporting a negative impact);
48% said UK exemption from ever closer union would have a positive impact
(with 29% reporting no impact and 12% reporting a negative impact); and 28%
said restricting EU migrants access to tax credits would be beneficial (with 56%
reporting no impact and 9% reporting a negative impact).
Voting intentions and levels of commitment (Feb 2016)
When asked how they would vote if a referendum was held tomorrow, 60% said
they would vote to remain, with 30% opting to leave, 9% stating that they didnt
know and 1% saying they would not vote. Respondents who favour remaining in
the EU are somewhat more committed to their position (52% completely
committed) versus those who favour leaving the EU (44% completely
committed). Notwithstanding, 63% of the total believe the Prime Ministers
reform package is unlikely to affect their vote intention.
The BCCs data on voting intentions shows a business community divided based
on size and export interests. Those representing large firms are significantly
more likely to vote remain than those in small and micro-businesses. Firms
international orientation is also a major factor, with opinion varying based on
whether and where firms export. Respondents from London, Wales and Northern
Ireland have the highest level of support for the UKs membership of the EU in
the February 2016 survey, whilst the North West of England and West Midlands
are the only regions of the UK where less than 50% of respondents expressed an
intention to vote remain when polled in February 2016.
Further details of the percentage breakdown of voting intentions are below:
Voting intentions: exporters vs. non-exporters (Feb 2016)
2

Both (n=2064)

Exporter (n=1120)

Non-exporter
(n=894)

Vote to stay

59.5%

63.7%

53.3%

Vote to leave

30.1%

29.9%

34.8%

Wouldnt vote

1%

1.4%

0.6%

Dont know

9.4%

8%

11.3%

Voting intentions: exporters by export destination (Feb 2016)


All (n=2064) Exporters to Exporters to Exporters to Dont export
EU only
ROTW only both
(n=894)
(n=221)
(n=118)
(n=781)
Vote to stay

59.5%

76.3%

30.7%

65.1%

53.3%

Vote to leave

30.1%

15.1%

57%

25.7%

34.8%

Wouldnt vote

1%

1%

4.9%

1%

0.6%

Dont know

9.4%

7.5%

7.4%

8.3%

11.3%

NB 3 did not specify where they export, and 47 did not answer the question
Voting intentions: by business size (number of employees) (Feb 2016)
All (n=2064) Micro 0-9
(n=1066)

Small 10-49 Medium 50- Large 250+


(n=504)
249 (n=282) (n=185)

Vote to stay

59.5%

53.9%

59.7%

68.6%

74.7%

Vote to leave

30.1%

33.5%

31.4%

22.8%

19.8%

Wouldnt vote

1%

1.2%

0.9%

0.5%

1.3%

Dont know

9.4%

11.4%

8.1%

8.2%

4.2%

NB 27 did not specify the size of their business


Voting intentions: by region (Feb 2016)
Nort
h
West
Engla
nd
n=24
5

Nort
h
East
Engla
nd

Yorksh
ire
and
Humb
er

East
Midla
nds

West
Midla
nds

East
of
Engla
nd

n=86

n=217

n=159

n=265

n=10
2

Sout
h
East
Engla
nd
n=26
5

Sout
h
West
Engla
nd
n=10
3

Lond
on

Scotl
and

Wale
s

North
ern
Irelan
d

n=11
0

n=42
1

n=1
2

n=88

I would
vote
for
Britain
to
remain
a
memb
er of
the
Europe
an
Union
I would
vote
for
Britain
to
leave
the
Europe
an
Union
I would
not
vote
Don't
know

46.10
%

59.30
%

52.10
%

54.70
%

49.60
%

54.90
%

52.10
%

63.10
%

73.60
%

68.20
%

75.00
%

80.70
%

41.60
%

31.40
%

35.50
%

32.10
%

38.30
%

34.30
%

35.80
%

30.10
%

17.30
%

19.20
%

25.00
%

11.40
%

1.40%

1.90%

0.80%

2.00%

0.40%

0.90
%

1.90%

3.40%

11.10
%

11.30
%

11.30
%

8.80%

11.70
%

6.80%

8.20
%

10.70
%

4.50%

1.20%
11.00
%

9.30%

The BCC and the accredited Chamber Network have just closed fieldwork on a
final tracking survey on the future of the UKs membership of the EU, which will
yield new data on voting intentions, impacts and engagement with the debate.
We would be pleased to share the updated results with the Committee when they
are ready, and could explain then in detail in oral evidence, which we would be
very pleased to give.
Focus Groups
A series of regional focus groups were carried out by accredited Chambers of
Commerce across the UK to find out on what areas Chamber members needed
more information. The following areas were identified as needing more
information on how a Remain or Leave vote would affect the following business
issues and sectors.
1

Issues impacting all businesses

Trade prospects with, and market access to:


o European Union member states
o Non-EU member states with existing EU trade agreements
o Non-EU member states without existing EU trade agreements
Customs and border management, including Northern Ireland Republic of
Ireland
Labour, skills and migration
Prices and currency
Business regulation and associated costs
Access to finance
Tax matters, including cross-border VAT
Regional development funding

Innovation, research & development and science funding


Infrastructure co-funding
City of London / financial services

Specific sectors

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing


Mining and Quarrying (the extractive industries including oil and gas)
Manufacturing
Utilities (electricity, gas and water generation and supply)
IT, telecoms and other digital services
Construction and real estate
Retail and distribution
Transport and logistics
Food and drink
Financial services
Professional and business services

In all of our focus groups and business engagement, businesspeople have


expressed a strong preference for detailed information and economic evidence
enabling them to evaluate the high-level claims made by all sides in this debate.
The BIS Committee inquiry on business views on the EU Referendum will be an
important report for businesspeople to consider in this context, and we look
forward to engaging further with the inquiry as it proceeds.
For more information please contact: Ashley Shackleton, Head of Public Affairs,
a.shackleton@britishchambers.org.uk / 020 3691 2634