UK businesses uneasy about future of Europe

Kate McCann
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BUSINESSES in the UK are growing increasingly wary of the Prime Minister’s strategy on European renegotiation, new research has found.

According to a survey from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), 54 per cent of businesses said they would back David Cameron’s plan to reform the relationship between the UK and the EU. But 19 per cent said they didn’t know, an increase of nearly 80 per cent compared to this time last year when the same question was asked, demonstrating increasing concern over what the Prime Minister’s plan means for UK businesses.

Overall, UK companies do not want to see the country withdraw from the EU, with 61 per cent saying this option would have a negative impact on their business and just 12 per cent viewing this as a positive step.

John Longworth, director general of the BCC, said: “In the space of a year, business opinion on a renegotiated relationship with Europe has started to cool, and more UK firms are gradually stating they ‘don’t know’ how this would impact on their future prospects.

“As voters head to the polls for Euro-elections here in the UK and across Europe, the increase in businesses who say they don’t know how these potential scenarios will affect the UK’s future should be a wake-up call for Britain’s political elites. Our findings suggest that the Prime Minister may soon need to shore up flagging business support for his ‘renegotiation and referendum’ strategy,” Longworth added.

The research comes as the Institute of Directors also released a survey showing that UK businesses do not support closer integration with the EU and over 60 per cent want to see some renegotiation of the current relationship. Just 11 per cent of those asked said the EU represents “a viable socio-economic model” in its current form, but only six per cent would vote to leave no matter what happens. The research points at a confused picture over Brussels, ahead of the European elections this week.