Brexit battle: 80% of CBI members want to stay in EU

Mar 17, 2016 | Online advertising

Nearly four-fifths (80%) of CBI members think being in EU is best for their business, according to a new survey looking into business attitudes to the UK EU referendum. CBI members employ more than 7m in the UK & majority want to remain in the EU — The CBI (@CBItweets) March 15, 2016 […]

Nearly four-fifths (80%) of CBI members think being in EU is best for their business, according to a new survey looking into business attitudes to the UK EU referendum.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is the UK’s largest business group. It’s corporate members together employ nearly 7 million people, representing roughly one third of private sector employees in the country.
The survey, carried out by polling company ComRes, got 773 responses among small, medium and large firms across the whole of the UK.
It indicates 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 15% unsure.
54% of respondents to the survey were larger firms and 38% small and medium-sized, with the remainder trade associations.
SMEs are classed as organisations with 1-249 employees. Organisations with 250+ employees are classed as large organisations.

The technology industry view
Julian David, CEO, techUK, Trade Association for the UK’s tech industry, said: “Firms that do business in Europe see the benefit of being in Europe. The risk of leaving is that we lose control over rules that many tech businesses will still have to comply with. That is why the clear majority of techUK members have come out in support of remaining in the EU.”
Controversial findings?
The EU debate has become an increasingly fractious issue in the UK, and its impact on the digital sector, and UK business as a whole, has been the subject of much controversy.
The CBI findings doesn’t mean the survey is representative of all businesses across the UK, and the organisation is often portrayed as a lobby group for the FTSE 100 big hitters.
However, organisations with different membership profiles also show overall support for a Remain vote in June, though the results are more nuanced.
A snap poll carried out by the Institute of Directors immediately after Prime Minister David Cameron announced his reform deal in February showed that 60% of 672 members would vote to stay, 31% would leave and 9% didn’t know.
The latest British Chambers of Commerce survey of more than 2,000 senior businesspeople got a very similar result: 60/30/9 in favour of remaining in the EU.
Again, it makes a difference how big the company is. But even among the smallest businesses, who employ fewer than 10 people, it was 54 per cent stay, 34 per cent leave, 11 per cent unsure.
The last time the Federation of Small Businesses asked the in-or-out question was September last year. The polling (of more than 6,000 respondents) was much closer: 47% would vote to remain, against 41% would leave and 11% unsure.
All of this suggests that there is a broad spectrum of opinion in the business world, often linked to company size, but a clear majority overall for staying in the EU.
Source: FactCheck
“Significant advantages that outweigh the frustrations”
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “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.
“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 500 million 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.”
Paul Drechsler, CBI President, said: “The vast majority of our members tell us their businesses have gained from being in the EU. We have consulted every one of the CBI’s councils in the last three weeks, involving firms of all sizes and sectors across the UK. All councils agreed, many unanimously, that the CBI should make the economic case for remaining.”
Voxpops: What CBI Members say
Some key comments from CBI members responding to the poll are pasted below (source: CBI)
“The single market is extremely important for Siemens UK. 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.”
Maria Ferraro, Chief Financial Officer, Siemens plc – the largest engineering company in Europe, with its UK HQ in Surrey
“As we look to expand our business and increase our exports abroad, remaining in the EU brings us the certainty we need. Selling our British beer to Europe easily through the EU single market, and our largest export market of Sweden, means we can continue to grow our 420 strong workforce back home.”
Andy Wood, Chief Executive, Adnams – an independent brewer based in East Anglia
“BASF supports continued British membership of the European Union. Both the UK and the EU benefit from a larger internal market. We particularly welcome UK support for the single market, international free trade, innovation, and policy based on scientific evidence.”
Richard Carter, MD, BASF – a multi-national chemicals manufacturer with its UK HQ in Cheadle
“To a truly global company like Weir, the EU delivers easy and guaranteed access to a market of over 500m people. At the same time, we benefit from its substantial weight in trade negotiations, helping British business succeed around the world. I fully support continued membership and would like to see the UK lead a reformed EU that seeks to deepen the single market even further.”
Keith Cochrane, CEO, The Weir Group PLC – an engineering business headquartered in Glasgow
“The message from UK Automotive is clear – being in Europe is vital to the future of our industry to secure jobs, investment and growth. An independent survey of our members – large and small – confirmed the overwhelming view that remaining in Europe is best for their business, giving access to the single market, its skilled workforce and the ability to influence regulations. The sector is thriving, with record exports and new vehicle registrations and the highest manufacturing levels for a decade. Our members are clear that leaving Europe could jeopardise this success.”
Mike Hawes, Chief Executive, SMMT – Trade Association for the UK’s automotive industry
“As a Northern Ireland based company, EU membership means our trade with Republic of Ireland customers operates without customs restrictions and with minimal compliance restrictions. As a result, we benefit from no EU tariffs, customs duties and border controls. In order to keep our prices competitive and grow our business, it is better for us to remain in the EU.”
Raymond Acheson, Chief Executive, Acheson & Glover Ltd – a concrete product manufacturer based in Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland
“As a growing SME based in Newcastle, the logical first step out of Britain was into Europe for two reasons – firstly, we had a really strong niche in the pharmaceutical space, and secondly many of our clients have European interests. Creative and digital service industries like ours don’t export in the traditional way that goods companies do – but we benefit just as much from EU membership and could be impacted badly by exit.”
Raman Sehgal, Managing Director, ramarketing PR – a small, fast-growing marketing and PR agency based in Newcastle
“For universities, the EU membership debate is about our student intake and our collaborative research, the diversity of our academic community and the future health of the universities as vibrant and well-resourced institutions. I’m a board member of Universities UK, which represents universities across Britain, and as a sector we’re taking a clear and strong pro-European position. Through the Universities for Europe campaign, we’re encouraging an evidence-based debate where the facts are considered.”
Professor Julie Lydon, Vice-Chancellor, University of South Wales – a University in Newport, Wales
“The EU single market means we are able to offer our customers more choice and a wider range of products, at a more competitive price. This is good for our customers and good for our business, and is why we support the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union.”
Patrick Doody, Sales and Marketing Director, Henderson Group – a grocery retailer and distribution business based in Newtonabbey, Northern Ireland

“Membership of the EU is one of the main reasons Citi’s EMEA headquarters is in the UK. Being in the EU allows us to ‘passport’ our financial services right across the single market, creating efficient access for our multinational clients operating throughout Union. Were the UK to leave the EU, many firms would probably have to rethink the way they do business, including whether to relocate certain activities.”
James Bardrick, CEO, Citi Global Markets Limited – Citigroup’s international broker-dealer with its UK office in London
“If you aren’t at the table, you don’t see the menu, let alone the food and Brexit will push us further away from the table year on year. Influence is a factor of size and scale. Our low carbon and energy future is inextricably linked to being at the heart of Europe. On our own we cannot possibly hope to deliver what our future generations are entitled to. Brexit isn’t the answer – leading from the centre, writing the menu as well as dining from it, absolutely is.”
Steve Sharratt OBE, Group Chief Executive, Bio Group Limited – a small green energy firm based in Suffolk
“As a leading executive search firm, our international and UK clients see us as a vital staging point to access talent across Europe. In addition to valuing the trade benefits which EU membership brings we support the mobility which it gives to our candidates. As we emerge from a period of economic fragility, ensuring the UK economy has the stability and certainty it needs is critical and that is why we support the UK remaining in the EU.”
Vicky Lawton, Managing Director, Warren Partners – an executive recruitment firm based in Cheshire
“With around 20% of our trade in Europe, we are in favour of the UK remaining in the EU. The strength of the EU, having standardised regulations and our ability to trade freely supports our growth plans and job creation in the UK.”
Phil Wild, Chief Executive Officer, James Cropper PLC – a paper manufacturer based in Cumbria
“The success of Airbus Group’s operations in the UK depends on European industrial organisation and integration. If the UK exits the EU, there are likely to be significant changes to the regulatory and economic environment with subsequent impacts on our competitiveness. Though Airbus Group remains fully committed to its operations in the UK and to its employees here, we certainly hope the UK will choose to retain its EU membership which helps to ensure the continued long-term success of Airbus Group’s European industrial model.”
Paul Kahn, President, Airbus Group UK – a multinational aerospace and defence company based in Bristol
“We believe that Britain should remain in the EU. From the point of view of a Life Sciences company such as ourselves, membership guarantees stability. It has opened up a whole field of collaboration and funding which is accelerating breakthrough treatments in healthcare. It is also helping us identify new ways of tackling global issues such as food scarcity. We are concerned that a potential reduction in research funding or the administrative burden of duplicating medical regulations, could set the clock back significantly in some fundamental areas of science.”
Dr Alexander Moscho, CEO, Bayer UK/Ireland – a multi-national chemical and pharmaceutical company with its UK HQ in Newbury
“Technetix Group exports 80% of its sales revenue – a large proportion going to EU countries. My belief is that membership of a reformed EU is much better for us than a UK exit, which would lead to disruption of the business environment likely to last many years. If the UK was to leave the EU, Technetix could move headquarters to the Netherlands if needed, where we already have a major operation. This will be OK for us but that won’t be good for UK plc.”
Paul Broadhurst, Chief Executive Officer, technetix – a supplier of communications equipment based in West Sussex
“EU membership is beneficial to the UK’s ability to compete on the global stage. It strengthens the nation’s global influence, enabling the UK to play a leading role from within a larger trading bloc. Economic powerhouses such as Asia and the US find the UK’s influence within the EU helpful, typically seeing us as an interpreter of Europe.”
Patrick Flaherty, Chief Executive, UK & Ireland, AECOM – a global infrastructure services company based in London
Commenting on the methodology used for the survey, Tom Mludzinski, ComRes Director of Political Polling, said: “ComRes conducted this survey of the CBI’s member organisations in the immediate aftermath of David Cameron’s announcement of a date for the EU referendum. The survey has been weighted to be fully representative of the CBI’s membership by class of membership, region and size of organisation – 773 responses represents a robust sample size and the final results are an accurate reflection of the views of the CBI’s membership as a whole.”
ComRes conducted a survey of 773 CBI member organisations online between 22nd February and 7th March 2016. The results as shown in the weighted data tables reflect the views of the CBI’s member organisations as a whole.
ComRes used the CBI’s membership database to draw the sample for the study – respondents were the most senior available membership contact from each organisation, with job titles typically being the Chief Executive, Managing Director, Chairman / Chairwoman or Director of Policy. Each member organisation was sent a unique online link to the survey and ComRes only allowed one response per member organisation. No monetary or other incentives were offered for participation.
The survey has been weighted to be fully representative of the CBI’s membership by class of membership, size of organisation and region. Due to success during fieldwork in using a quota-based approach, this weighting has had only a very minor impact on the final results. The quota targets and weighting criteria were based on information from the CBI’s membership database.
ComRes conducts all of its research in accordance with the Market Research Society Code of Conduct and abides by British Polling Council rules.
For transparency purposes, full weighted and unweighted data tables are available on the ComRes website (, as well as the full questionnaire from the research.

Source: CBI

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