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EU deal does enough, say business leaders

23 Feb 2016

New IoD survey shows a majority of business leaders set to vote to remain in the European Union

Six in 10 business leaders plan to vote to remain in the European Union following the reform deal secured by the Prime Minister in Brussels late on Friday night, a snap poll by the Institute of Directors reveals. IoD members, who represent businesses of all sizes across the country, thought the reform package targeted the right areas, with around two-thirds saying that measures to reduce red tape, confirmation that Britain was not going to be pulled into an ‘ever closer union’, and protections for the UK’s successful financial services sector were important.

The verdict of company directors was that the Prime Minister had secured a reasonable deal. Three times as many IoD members thought the agreement was good for their business, compared to those who thought it was bad. Overall, however, the IoD said that the package was not likely to be the decisive factor in how businesses voted at the referendum, now set for 23 June. Four in 10 directors said that the deal had influenced their vote, but over half had not had their view altered.

Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, called on all businesses to think carefully about how the EU referendum would affect them:

“The Prime Minister has fought hard for this deal and has secured positive changes, in particular on reducing the burden of pointless or excessive red tape. Businesses will weigh up the reforms when considering the pros and cons of EU membership as they decide how to vote at the referendum.

“The issue is of course much larger than this agreement. Our members have concerns about the way the EU operates in some areas. But this is balanced against the ability to trade easily across the single market. Their operations are deeply entwined with the European Union – more than three-quarters have commercial links with other member states. It is worrying that 4 in 10 firms have not discussed the referendum in the boardroom. Now that a date has been set, all firms should consider what the potential outcomes would mean for them.

“There are many entrenched opinions on EU membership. Amidst all the rhetoric and campaigning, it is vital that people appreciate the consequences for jobs, prices and economic growth. They need to hear what companies think. Business leaders will take different positions, but they should not be afraid to stand up. This referendum is a momentous political choice. Let us make sure it is a well-informed one.

“Businesses are foursquare behind the commitment to reduce the burden of regulation outlined in the agreement. However, most are sceptical about what Brussels can actually achieve. If Britain does choose to stay in the EU and if membership is to be the ‘best of both worlds’ as the Prime Minister has claimed, then reform cannot stop on June 23rd.”

Full survey results

The results below are from survey of 672 IoD members, conducted immediately after last week’s European Summit, between Saturday 20th February and Sunday 21st February 2016.

Totals may not sum to 100% due to rounding.

Q1. Given what you know about the package that EU leaders have agreed, how do you now intend to vote at the referendum? 

For the UK to remain a member of the European Union

405

60%

For the UK to leave the European Union

207

31%

Don’t know

60

9%

Q2. Thinking of the impact on your primary organisation, do you think the agreement is? 

Very good

46

7%

Fairly good

179

27%

Fairly bad

44

7%

Very bad

17

3%

Makes no difference either way

360

54%

Don’t know

26

4%

Q3. How did the agreement affect your vote? Are you now … 

More likely to vote for the UK to remain in the EU

130

19%

More likely to vote for the UK to leave the EU

142

21%

The agreement will have no effect, I would vote to remain in the EU anyway

284

42%

The agreement will have no effect, I would vote to leave the EU anyway

80

12%

Don’t know

36

5%

 

Q4. The agreement covers four areas in which the British Government sought reform. Thinking from the point of view of your primary organisation, please indicate the importance you attach to each of these individual areas.

4a. Principles to protect Britain and other non-euro countries against the Eurozone voting as a bloc 

5 – Very important

234

35%

4

196

29%

3

119

18%

2

58

9%

1 – Not at all important

65

10%

4b. Boosting competitiveness by setting burden reduction targets for EU regulation 

5 – Very important

245

37%

4

196

29%

3

142

21%

2

43

6%

1 – Not at all important

46

7%

4c. Amending “ever closer union” to clarify that it cannot be used to justify political integration and giving national parliaments the ability to block EU proposals 

5 – Very important

248

37%

4

162

24%

3

129

19%

2

43

6%

1 – Not at all important

90

13%

4d. Restricting EU migrants’ access to in-work benefits such as tax credits 

5 – Very important

171

25%

4

87

13%

3

140

21%

2

106

16%

1 – Not at all important

168

25%

Q5. The agreement states that the EU will commit to lowering administrative burdens and compliance costs and repealing unnecessary legislation to make businesses more competitive.

5a. Do you support this aim? 

Strongly support

551

82%

Slightly support

100

15%

Slightly oppose

8

1%

Strongly oppose

3

1%

Don’t know

10

2%

5b. How confident are you effective action will be taken?

5 – Very confident

14

2%

4

60

9%

3

183

27%

2

145

22%

1 – Not at all confident

270

40%

Q6. Have you discussed the implications of the referendum at senior management or board level in your primary organisation?

Yes

363

54%

No

296

44%

Don’t know

10

2%


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