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Six in ten EEF members want the UK to remain in the EU

25 February 2016

Independent new research, conducted by GfK on behalf of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, shows that over six in ten EEF members (61%) are in favour of the UK remaining in the EU, while almost a quarter (24%) say that their company is undecided or won’t be taking a stance[1]. Just 5% support a ‘Brexit’.

The poll, the first conducted by the manufacturers’ organisation since the referendum was announced last year, shows that the pro-EU stance is fairly evenly spread across all company sizes. It also suggests that the outcome of Government negotiations is unlikely to make a great deal of difference, particularly for EEF members that are pro-EU.

The findings show that over half (51%) of pro-EU EEF members want to remain in the EU regardless of the outcome of renegotiations, while a further 28% say their company is unlikely to change its view[2]. Amongst the smaller ‘out’ camp, 54% say the outcome could turn (33%) or sway (21%) their view[2].

According to the survey, 70% of EEF members say that remaining in the EU is important (50%) or business critical (20%) for their company[3]. The findings point to members weighing up the pros and cons of EU membership and taking a pragmatic view. Just 3% claim not to see any advantages to business of being in the EU[4], while 9% perceive no disadvantages[5].

Members identify the top business advantage of EU membership as the fact that it makes it easier for UK companies to start exporting (81%)[4]. At the same time, they perceive red tape (72%) as the key disadvantage for UK business[5].

Other advantages identified are ease of travel between member states (77%), access to a large export market (76%) and one set of trading rules and regulations for 28 member states (73%)[4]. Outside of red tape, the main disadvantages are the potential for slower economic growth in the EU to hold the UK back (49%) and greater potential for economic contagion or disruption across markets (44%)[5].

Key Points

  • Independent new poll shows that 61% of EEF members want the UK to remain in the EU, while just 5% support a ‘Brexit’[1]
  • 79% of the pro-EU say that the outcome of Government negotiations will have little or no bearing on their view[2]
  • Majority of EEF members say that remaining in the EU is important (50%) or business critical (20%) for their company[3]
  • Top advantage for business of remaining in the EU is that it makes it easier for UK companies to start exporting (81%)[4] – top disadvantage is red tape (72%)[5]
  • 82% of EEF members say it doesn’t make sense for the UK to cut itself off from its major market[6]
  • 82% agree that the UK has a key role to play in helping the EU to deliver greater value and efficiency[6]
  • Findings are released ahead of this year’s National Manufacturing Conference where campaigners from both the ‘In’ and ‘Out’ camps will be taking part in a debate.


Interest in exporting and the role that the EU plays in this is very high – just one in ten of those surveyed (10%) do not export or are not interested in exporting to neighbouring countries in the EU[7]. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, over eight in ten (82%) say that it doesn’t make sense for the UK to cut itself off from its major market[6]. At the same time, 82% agree that the UK has a key role to play in helping the EU become more efficient and work harder for its members[6].

Just two in ten (20%) believe that UK business is held back by the EU and there is similarly little support (22%) for the idea that the UK faces a choice between exporting to the EU and exporting globally[6]. There is also broad recognition that trade deals today are negotiated between blocs rather than individual trading nations (59% agree/15% disagree)[6].

The findings have been released just ahead of this year’s National Manufacturing Conference in London (Wednesday 24th February), where EEF has invited both the ‘in’ and ‘out’ camps to present their cases to industry bosses. Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of Britain for Business (for the Vote Leave camp) and MP Damian Green of the Conservative Europe Group (for the ‘remain’ camp) will be going head to head on the issue.

Terry Scuoler, CEO of EEF, says: “These findings show that the majority of our members – of all sizes – are pragmatically pro-EU. There are no rose-tinted spectacles here – our members are fully aware of the pros and cons of EU membership and, on balance, have decided that the UK’s interests are best served by remaining.

“Our findings reinforce the fact that companies, particularly those interested in exporting, do not see the point of the UK cutting itself off from its major market. More importantly, they reject the idea that the UK faces a straight choice between exporting to the EU or expanding its global reach. They understand that a dynamic and growing economy should and could be doing both and that being part of the EU helps to underpin rather than undermine our global presence and trade ambitions.

“This is not to suggest the EU is perfect – our members are fully aware and frank about the EU’s shortcomings. But they also value its benefits and strongly believe that the right way forward is to reform and improve the EU for the benefit of all member states rather than simply walk away.”

 

Notes:

The research was conducted by telephone by GfK 16/09/15-27/10/15 amongst 500 senior decision makers from manufacturers that are EEF members.

1.        In response to: ‘Thinking now about the forthcoming referendum on the UK’s ongoing membership of the EU, which one of the following best describes your company’s view?’

2.        In response to: ‘You have said that your company wants the UK to remain in the EU/You have said that your company wants the UK to leave the EU. Which of the following statements most closely reflects how, if at all, the outcome of the Government’s current negotiations with the EU could change your company’s view regarding this?’

3.        In response to: ‘How important or otherwise is it to your company that the UK remains in the EU?’ This was asked of all respondents.

4.        In response to: ‘Thinking of UK business as a whole, which of the following, if any, do you consider as advantages of the UK remaining in the EU? You can mention as many or as few as you wish.’ This was asked of all respondents.

5.        In response to: ‘And again, thinking of UK business as a whole, which of the following, if any, do you consider as disadvantages of the UK remaining in the EU? You can mention as many or as few as you wish.’ This was asked of all respondents.

6.        In response to: ‘Finally, thinking of the EU, please tell me whether you agree or disagree with each of the following statements.’ This was asked of all respondents.

7.        In response to: ‘Which of the following most closely describes your company’s export strategy?’ This was asked of all respondents.    

 
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