The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has published a wide-ranging study into SME opinion regarding the upcoming European referendum. With small businesses suffering from a lack of impartial advice on the subject, find out whether SME’s want to stay in or exit the EU.
‘Vital starting point’
It is the first time that the FSB has carried out such a distinctive piece of research on small business opinion towards membership of the EU. Taking the answers of 6,263 of its members between June and July 2015, the federation used quantitative and qualitative data to establish its findings.
To ensure that its conclusions would be fully representative of all SME owners, the FSB also moderated a 12-day online discussion forum between 123 of its members to get a bigger picture of small business opinion. The members were chosen to represent a balanced and fair sample within its membership.
The online discussion generated over 1,300 individual comments regarding their thoughts about EU membership.
Mike Cherry, policy director of the FSB, spoke in detail about the study, stating that the organisation’s work is a ‘‘vital starting point’’ in establishing small business concerns during the EU referendum debate.
‘‘This is only the beginning of our work to support our members throughout this complex debate.’’
‘‘Our role will be to ensure the small business voice is heard in the discussion, and that our members have all the information they need to make a decision which is right for them and their business,’’ continued Cherry, who believes that SMEs lack clear information from relevant parties in order to form a well-rounded opinion on the European Union.
What did the FSB find out?
There is a major difference of opinion within the SME community over whether to stay in the European Union.
Nearly half (47 per cent) of small firms would vote ‘Yes’ to staying in the EU if they had to vote on the subject today.
Around 41 per cent of SME’s would vote ‘No’, and over ten per cent are undecided, emphasising the lack of impartial information given to small business owners on the subject.
Fewer than 35 per cent of small firms feel that the EU is beneficial to their business, compared to the 40 per cent that don’t feel it’s helpful for their SME.
The group that is most keen to vote ‘Yes’ is exporters to the European Union. Fed Ex has found that 38 per cent of all UK SMEs actively export to the EU, so it would be a huge blow to them if the UK didn’t renew its membership in 2017.
Geographically, there is a huge division of opinion on EU membership. In Scotland, 59.9 per cent of FSB members would vote ‘Yes’, compared to 47 per cent in the West Midlands.
The report also found that:
- 7 per cent of small business owners that would vote ‘Yes’ would like to see powers transferred back to the UK.
- 7 per cent of small business owners that voted ‘No’ would like the UK to withdraw from the EU and concentrate on strengthening its trade links with the rest of the world.
- Male business owners: 45.8 per cent would vote ‘Yes’ and 43.3 per cent would vote ‘No’.
Lack of impartial advice
The survey revealed that less than half of its respondents (40.8 per cent) had a full grasp about the possible effects of a European referendum, with 37 per cent stating that they ‘‘do not feel ‘informed’ about the forthcoming referendum from a business point of view.’’
But as it stands, the FSB has shown that more small businesses want to stay in the European Union, a fact that is welcomed by Lucy Thomas, campaign director of Business for New Europe.
‘‘Once again UK businesses have made clear that they support Britain remaining a member of the European Union,’’ stated Thomas in an interview with the BBC.
‘‘The report from the Federation of Small Businesses highlights the deep concern that many of its members have about a possible British exit.’’
But just like the survey, there is a difference of opinion from another campaign leader – Robert Oxley, campaign chief of ‘No’ campaign group Business for Britain.
‘‘Being part of an unreformed EU means that we lose control over key parts of our economy, costing businesses and ultimately jobs.’’
What is your take on the European referendum – do you want to stay in or exit the EU. Have your say in the comments section below, we would love to hear your thoughts!