British business split down middle on EU question, finds report

51% would leave the European Union

 UK businesses are split down the middle as to whether Britain should leave the EU, findings of a new report released by the National Business Awards, entitled Business Without Boundaries reveal.

The Business Without Barriers report, which surveyed over 500 Business Decision Makers throughout the country about their attitudes towards growth and their prospects for the year ahead, found that 51% of those questioned would like to see the UK leave the EU from a business perspective, as opposed to the 49% who’d like to remain part of the EU.

According to the report, the logic for those who believe we should stay included: continued access to markets; more commercial opportunities; stability and existing relationships; benefiting from trade agreements made by other countries with Europe; and having access to the most talented workers from the EU.

Businesses in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are more likely to want to stay in Europe than those in England – with businesses in the East of England, the North East, and the Midlands more likely to want leave.

Another major theme of the report is business confidence and specifically, barriers to growth for UK companies; over half (55%) of the businesses surveyed said that they are confident or very confident of growth when compared to last year – reflective of the increasingly positive economic indicators of the past few months.

34% of businesses have said they are offering new products and services when compared with last year – a key indicator of confidence in growth.

But when it comes to barriers faced by businesses in the UK today, nearly a quarter (23%) cited too much red tape as the main factor hampering their business’ growth; 20% cited a lack of investment; and, perhaps worryingly, 12% named a lack of talent attraction as the main factor.

The report concludes that, despite this renewed confidence and a more optimistic outlook for UK businesses in general, there is still a long way to go to ensure sustained future success. It highlights that, despite 40% of businesses saying they currently export outside of the UK, almost double that number (79%) saying they think it will be a major factor for UK businesses in the coming years.

With concerns that the UK is unlikely to meet the government’s target of £1 trillion of exports by 2020 at current levels, the report warns that – even if not in their immediate plans – all businesses need to keep in mind the possibility of exporting potential in the coming years, as well as being structurally flexible enough to cope with barriers that come their way.

The report is published as the National Business Awards opens for entries, recognising enterprise excellence across categories including Growth Business of the Year, Employer of the Year and the Innovation Award.