The business vote for the UK to remain in the European Union is far more divided that many had previously thought, according to research from pollsters YouGov.
It showed that 40 per cent of executives surveyed think the UK would be better off out of the trading bloc, with 49 per cent in favour of staying in and 11 per cent undecided.
Previous business surveys have found a clear majority for remaining in the EU – with anything from 60 per cent to 80 per cent backing remaining, with only small percentages actively in favour of leaving.
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Earlier this month a Deloitte survey showed that 75 per cent of the 120 chief financial officers from major companies were in favour the UK remaining in the EU — up from 62 per cent in the previous quarter.
Meanwhile, a Europe-wide business poll by the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe around the same time showed that of 89.3 per cent of 8,000 businesses thought the UK would be best off staying in the EU.
Yesterday it was claimed by the official Brexit campaign Vote Leave that businesses are being prevented from coming out in support of a Brexit due to threats from Downing Street and the Cabinet Office.
Dominic Cummings made the allegations during a three-hour grilling by the influential Treasury select committee, chaired by MP Andrew Tyrie.
Big business are often found to be more in favour of remaining in the UK, though according to the latest YouGov poll the split between larger business was also less clear. Only 53 per cent wanted the UK to remain, with 37 per cent saying they would plump for a vote to leave, while seven per cent remain undecided.
Zak Meziane, partner at Clarus Consulting, said:
Business, and particularly big business, is often portrayed as being strongly ‘Remain’. But our survey suggests that, across the spread of businesses, it’s actually a close-run thing.
Despite the ongoing Brexit brouhaha 38 per cent of YouGov respondents said they still don’t feel they have the information they need to make their vote.
This rose to 43 per cent of respondents from small businesses.
One of the major issues for businesses appears to be a lack of information – with nearly four in ten respondents saying they still don’t feel they have enough information on which to base their vote. This is perhaps pushing executives towards making a personal/emotional decision rather than basing it on business factors.
YouGov surveyed 618 business leaders between 4-8 April.