About two-thirds of businesses think Britain should take back the power to make our own trade agreements
Leading companies such as Vauxhall, Bentley, General Motors and JCB have said that their investment will not be damaged if we Vote Leave
Most British businesses are negative about the EU. The overwhelming majority of British businesses reject the premise of the Single Market and have done so for over a decade. ICM polling in April 2004 found that 73% of British businesses thought that Britain would be more prosperous and secure if it took powers back from the EU, including the power to make our own trade agreements.
Polling by Perspective Research Services in August 2015 found that, by 2:1, SMEs think the EU is a hindrance rather than a help to their business. More than 70% of SMEs want the British Government rather than the EU in charge of employment law, health and safety, and trade negotiations. 69% of SMEs agree that the UK can trade and cooperate with Europe without giving away permanent control to the EU. Just 25% believe single EU rules make trade easier and that the Single Market is good for jobs and living standards.
The FSB held an online survey of its members which received 6,263 responses. Just over 40% of respondents said that they would vote to leave the EU, compared to 47% who would opt to remain. The British Chambers of Commerce also found in a survey that 35.6% of its members wanted to leave the EU and have a free trade agreement, against 36.7% who oppose.
Nonetheless, the EU-funded CBI asserts that British ‘business wants the UK to remain in the European Union’, continuing to rely on flawed surveys. In October 2015, for example, the CBI issued a document claiming that ‘the majority of firms believe that the “pros” of EU membership outweigh the “cons”’ on the basis of a survey of just 29 companies.
The CBI refuses to disclose how many members it has. When it was forced to disclose this number in 1999 during the controversy over their dodgy polls on the euro, it was only 2,037. In 2013 the CBI used a YouGov poll to claim that 8 out of 10 British firms are in favour of EU membership. However YouGov has since confirmed that the CBI did not supply them with ‘any business characteristics data’ or ‘any population data’. On 2 November 2015, the Secretary to the British Polling Council Management Committee, Nick Moon, commented that the survey was ‘pretty dodgy’.
The CBI supports EU membership regardless of the terms. Publicly it claimed that it only supported membership of a ‘reformed’ EU – yet leaked minutes of the CBI’s President’s Committee of 6 July 2015 have revealed that the recent CBI President, Sir Mike Rake, urged Ministers ‘not to overplay our hand in negotiations with Brussels’. The minutes also revealed that the CBI lacks ‘clear criteria for judging reforms’, which would enable members ‘to judge whether a deal is sufficient and supportable’. The CBI’s record in opposing damaging red tape is dismal - only 1% of all CBI press releases are critical of the EU.
International businesses and investors have made clear that they are not worried about Britain leaving the EU:
Tim Tozer, Chairman and Managing Director, Vauxhall Motors: ‘If this country would vote to leave the EU, would that trouble or concern us? There my answer is no because I don’t think that in that event there would not be a trade agreement with what was left of the EU’ (BBC Radio 4, Today Programme, 15 September 2015, link).
Kevin Rose, board member, Bentley: ‘We made our plans, we've announced the investments ... and they were in full knowledge that there was a referendum so we believe in the UK … Regardless [of the outcome], we think that the UK is a good place for investment’ (Reuters, 17 September 2015, link).
Fabrice Bregier, Chief Executive, Airbus: He has said he has ‘no intention’ of pulling manufacturing out of the UK if the country votes to leave the European Union (BBC News, 16 June 2015, link).
Jeff Immelt, Chairman and Chief Executive, GE: ‘It’s important the UK has good relationships around the world, but I don’t really think that its place in the European Union makes that much difference’ (The Daily Telegraph, 3 October 2015, link).
Karl-Thomas Neumann, Chief Executive of Opel: 'We have plants in Luton and Ellesmere port. We will not turn our back on England... life would carry on... We would continue to find ways to invest' (Reuters, 17 September 2015, link).
Trevor Mann, Chief Performance Officer, Nissan: 'If there was a future trade agreement between the UK and EU then it wouldn't make a lot of difference' (Financial Times, 11 January 2016, link).
Takahiro Hachigo, Chief Executive of Honda: 'Honda remains firmly committed to car production in the UK and Europe. Our production activity in the UK plays a key role for our business in terms of providing products to the European market… and beyond' (AutoExpress, 1 October 2015, link).
Akio Toyoda, Chief Executive of Toyota: 'We want to deepen our roots to deliver ever better cars, so when that capsule is opened after 100 years, all can see we’ve built a truly British company.... I think a strong manufacturing workforce and parts supply chain are characteristic of the UK... I understand it was judging on those factors that we choose to put our first European plant in Britain' (FT, 11 January 2016, link).
Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever: 'The effectiveness of my research centre is the quality of the people I have there and the ideas coming out in terms of the innovations that we produce. We don’t make a decision on moving research centres around depending on if you are in the EU or not... I am in every country basically, in any trading zone, in the EU, out of the EU. People need to buy shampoo, people need to eat their Knorr or Cup-a-soup, and they want to buy their Coleman’s and they want to buy their Magnum ice cream. They are not going to say that is function of if I am in the EU or if I am not in the EU' (Guardian, 25 January 2015, link).
International investors have been clear that they want the UK to have looser links with the EU. In a 2013 survey 72% of US investors and 66% of Asian investors said that the UK should have looser relations with the EU.
The Chairman of the BSE campaign, Lord Rose of Monewden, has admitted that if we Vote Leave, ‘nothing is going to happen’. He previously said the prospect of companies leaving was ‘scaremongering’ and a ‘red herring’.
The BSE campaign is trying to scare you by saying that ‘3 million jobs’ would be lost if we left the EU. This seriously flawed figure was invented by campaigners who said we would lose jobs if we did not join the euro. They were wrong then and they are wrong now. The economist whose work they traduced, Dr Martin Weale, dismissed the claim as ‘pure Goebbels’.
Leading CBI members do not support the CBI leadership on EU - LINK (pdf)
The CBI is the Voice of Brussels - LINK
Secret CBI minutes warn UK Government not to ‘overplay our hand’ in EU negotiations - LINK
The CBI receives millions from the EU and public bodies - LINK
Calculating the CBI's membership - LINK (pdf)
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