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We need to talk about the EU

04 May 2016

Two EU flags next to each otherA message from Lady Barbara Judge and Simon Walker

We have now entered the official campaigning period for the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, which will take place on 23rd June. It is a decision of great significance to the country, and to the organisations that you run. 8 in 10 of our members say they have some form of business link with the EU.

The IoD is not taking an official position in the referendum campaign. We, and the policy team, have surveyed and spoken to many members and believe we can make the most beneficial contribution to this debate by representing the members’ views in full, and seeking to be a trusted source of information.

In the most recent survey conducted in the last few weeks, 63% of members said a vote to remain in the EU would be better for their organisation, while 29% said it would better if the result were to leave. The debate among business leaders is more nuanced than is often apparent from reporting on the subject. Members value aspects of our position in the EU, particularly access to the single market, but equally feel that, if they don’t reform, EU member states will find it hard to turn around their economic fortunes.

Companies have a range of views. One point on which all directors should agree is that they must consider whether, and how, the possible outcomes will affect them. It is concerning that only 6 in 10 IoD members have had discussions about the referendum at board or senior management level.

We urge you all to start talking about the referendum sooner rather than later. Put the issue on the board agenda, but also talk to your staff. You may not trade directly with the EU, but we know that many of you employ EU citizens: have you considered discussing the issue with them? Depending on your operations, it may be helpful to raise the issue with business customers and suppliers. Whichever side you come down, we think it is vital that Britain’s businesses play an active part in this debate in their communities.

We know that the information available can be contradictory or unreliable, so in an attempt to give you as much context as possible, we are holding a series of events around the UK over the coming weeks. You can find the details on the new EU Referendum section of the website, which has plenty of related content.

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