Business voting intentions harden as PM seeks final deal…
Over half of the senior Staffordshire businesspeople polled in a major new British Chambers of Commerce survey have revealed that the outcome of the Prime Minister’s renegotiation is unlikely to change how they will vote in the EU referendum.
Despite large majorities saying they are familiar with the objectives of the renegotiation package, 59 per cent of respondents said it would make no difference to their voting intentions.
On the eve of crunch Brussels talks expected to result in a deal, the findings from Staffordshire’s leading business group demonstrate that the renegotiation process is having little effect on business opinion.
The chamber’s previous survey looking at Staffordshire took place in September 2015 before the renegotiation process began and found that half (51 per cent) of those surveyed would reconsider their voting intentions based on the package of reforms secured by the Prime Minister.
But the latest survey of over 247 senior business leaders conducted in January 2016 with renegotiation in full swing (before the Tusk draft deal was published), saw this percentage decrease to 37 per cent. The chamber’s detailed findings suggest that it is now the referendum itself that is important to businesspeople, rather than any package of reforms secured.
When it comes to how individual businesspeople will vote in the forthcoming referendum, 50 per cent of local firms would vote to remain, down slightly from 66 per cent in September, and 38 per cent would vote to leave – up slightly from 26 per cent.
The data shows a business community divided based on size and export interests. Those representing large firms are significantly more likely to vote ‘Remain’ than those in small and micro-businesses. Firms’ international orientation is also a major factor, with opinion varying based on whether and where they export.
Commenting on the results, Jane Gratton, Deputy Chief Executive at Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce said: “When we last surveyed chambers members in September, we did not know the detail or ambition of the Prime Minister’s renegotiation package. Now our findings suggest that the renegotiation is having little impact on day-to-day business, since many made up their minds before knowing the outcome of negotiations, effectively discounting them as irrelevant.
“Our findings suggest that for businesspeople, this is a question of in or out — not renegotiation. Business remains divided on Europe, and business leaders’ views reflect the size of their firm and their export interests, rather than the current political debate. They are making rational economic choices based on their own interests.
“Our findings are a wake-up call for both the Remain and Leave camps. Neither side can bank on a change to business opinion in the wake of any renegotiation settlement.”
The chambers will be hosting another debate on the EU in May 2016 so that all Staffordshire businesses can get the full facts on the issue and ensure that their employees have the information they need to vote on this issue.
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