CBI to support economic case against Brexit

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which has already indicated that it wants the UK to remain in the European Union (EU), plans to make the economic case for continued membership ahead of the referendum on June 23.

“A clear majority of CBI member companies – which together employ nearly 7m people, about one third of private sector employees – believe that it would be in the best interests of their business and the wider UK economy to remain inside the EU,” the business organisation stated.

A survey conducted for the CBI by polling company ComRes received 773 responses from UK firms of all sizes. It found that 80% of CBI members, when weighted to reflect its membership – including 71% of small and mid-sized business members – believe that the UK remaining a member of the EU would be best for their business. Overall, 5% say it is in their firms’ best interests for the UK to leave the EU, with the remaining 15% unsure.

“The message from our members is resounding – most want the UK to stay in the EU because it is better for their business, jobs and prosperity,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general. “Walking away makes little economic sense and risks throwing away the many benefits we gain from being part of the EU.

“Our members tell us that having guaranteed access to a tariff-free market of 500m people, and to more than 30 global trade deals covering 50 countries, are significant advantages that outweigh the frustrations. A minority of members want to leave the EU. We will continue to respect and reflect their views and campaign for EU reform to get a better deal for all businesses.

“However, most CBI members are unconvinced that alternatives to full membership would offer the same opportunities. We have yet to see those who seek to leave the EU present a compelling vision of what this would mean for jobs and growth.

“We will not align ourselves with any campaign. Though prosperity, jobs and future living standards matter to many people, we recognise there will be other considerations. It is not our place to tell people how to vote, but the CBI will play its role in making the economic case for remaining in the EU.”

Other key survey findings:

• 77% of CBI member organisations say that remaining in the EU would be in the best interest of the wider UK economy, while 6% say that leaving would be the better option.
• CBI member organisations that operate inside the EU (excluding the UK) are more likely to say that a ‘remain’ result is in their best interest than those who do not – 83% against 76%.
• CBI members based in London are the most likely of all UK regions to say that a ‘remain’ result would be in the best interest of their organisation (85%). Members in the Midlands and East of England are the least likely (75%), although a strong majority still say that remaining in the EU would be in the best interest of their organisation.
• 73% of trade association respondents think it would be in the best interest of the UK economy to remain inside the EU. 27% are unsure and none want the UK to leave.
• CBI member organisations that invest in (84%) and export to the EU (82%) are marginally more likely to say a ‘remain’ result would be in the best interest of their organisation than those who do not (77%).
• Across industry sectors, 77% of CBI members in the construction sector think it would be best for their organisation if the UK stayed in the EU – for production (manufacturing, utilities etc.) the figure is 78%. There is also strong support among members from the financial and insurance sectors (81%), professional scientific and technical (83%), and education (83%).
• Comparable to the findings above, large organisations within the CBI membership are more likely than small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to say that in the upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, remaining in the EU would be in the best interest of the UK economy as a whole (81% v 65%). 15% of SME members say that leaving the EU would be in the best interests of the UK economy, compared to 4% of large members.

Among individual members offering commentary was Maria Ferraro, chief financial officer (CFO) for Siemens, the largest engineering company in Europe, whose UK HQ is in Surrey.

“The single market is extremely important for Siemens UK,” said Ferraro. “Should Brexit occur that creates the necessity to negotiate and being Canadian, I know it took seven years for Canada to negotiate their EU trade agreement.

“Investment wouldn’t cease, but it would take time for stability to return and for the UK to be an attractive place to invest.”

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