UK’s Brexit referendum: Support from business to EU membership waning

By @diplomatist10 on
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Carolyn Fairbairn, the new director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), poses for a photograph in London, Britain November 16, 2015. Reuters/Paul Hackett

The solid support from the business and industry against the United Kingdom's idea of exiting the European Union is found to be weakening. According to a recent survey, the support of business sector to retain Britain's EU membership has plummeted from 74 percent to 62 percent in a period of six months.

Britain has announced an in and out referendum on the UK's EU membership issue by the end of 2017. The survey, conducted by Deloitte targeted big businesses, wherein a majority said the UK is better off in the EU, but those backing UK’s exit from EU also soared from 2 to 6 percent, reports BBC.

The survey also highlighted the concerns aired by business groups, which fear economic damage to Britain if the Brexit idea takes off. It was duly highlighted by pressure group “Britain Stronger in Europe.” It noted that out of 236 billion pounds of UK exports, nearly 80 percent will be at risk if Britain decides to quit the EU.

The survey covered 137 chief financial officers (CFOs) of large companies, which included 24 CFOs from the top 100 companies. Some 28 percent of respondents said the final decision hinges on the renegotiations with EU on UK's membership.

Analysing the results, Ian Stewart , chief economist at Deloitte, told the BBC that the outcome of the Prime Minister's renegotiation with European leaders could still tilt how people would vote in the referendum.

“It suggests there is a hope that the renegotiation will deliver material improvements for the UK and a sizeable majority is waiting to see,” he added.

Stewart noted that the continued weak recovery in Europe, migrant crisis and uncertainties over the monetary union can turn public opinion negative and such a shift can be seen among the chief financial officers.

Economic risks

“If we leave, those exports would be at risk, facing trade barriers and fees - hitting British businesses hard and increasing prices in the shops," said Stuart Rose, chairman of the Stronger In campaign.

Will Straw, executive director of “Britain Stronger In Europe,” said the results point to a clear preference from business to maintain the status quo.

“An overwhelming majority of business leaders think Britain is stronger and better off in Europe. Just 6% think it would be better to leave,” he said.

US should worry

Meanwhile, as Britain is gesturing to move closer to the exit door of European Union, strains in Britain’s historic partnership with the United States can be a fall out. This is because many see the possibility of Britain becoming the first ever country to leave the EU in its 60-year history. A report in The Hill said, Prime Minister David Cameron’s offer to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership was a smart political move and it got the Conservatives Eurosceptic votes in the decisive general election in 2014.

It noted that even Cameron supports Britain's continued stay in EU though he wants some re-negotiation on some outstanding issues.