The EU in or out debate is increasingly hotly debated, so we thought we would take a look at what the automotive sector and small businesses in the UK think.
Small Businesses: What are they saying?
It’s a close call as far as small businesses are concerned.
A poll found six out of 10 small business owners would vote to stay in.
But only 17% are firmly in the Brexit camp, the survey from accountancy firm Moore Stephens, which asked nearly 500 owner-managed businesses in Britain, across multiple sectors, found.
The biggest fears of leaving the EU, business owners said, are instability and barriers to free trade across Europe.
However, more than four out of 10 small business people have yet to make up their mind, according to a separate survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
The poll was carried out in February so since the debate has been underway, some could now have made their decision.
At the time, 42% were undecided whilst more than half felt they did not have enough information to be able to make an informed decision.
Areas which most concern the UK’s 5.4 million small businesses include the economic impact of leaving and the cost of compliance with EU legislation.
And the motor industry?
Meanwhile, members of the Society of Manufacturers and Motor Traders (SMMT), the UK’s voice for the industry, overwhelmingly believe staying in is in the sector’s best interests.
More than three-quarters (77% ) are in favour of staying in the EU, according to a survey conducted on the trade body’s behalf.
The survey broke down the figures even further and found whilst remaining in had the backing of almost one in nine of its larger members (88%), its SME members also wanted to remain a part of Europe with 73% wanting to retain the UK’s membership.
Support for Brexit was just 9% which was even lower than the ‘don’t knows’ at 14%.
The most popular reason for remaining was the positive impact on business that access to EU automotive markets provided (66%) followed by access to a skilled workforce (55%) and the ability to influence industry standards and regulations (52%). Should the UK vote to leave, 59% thought it would have a negative effect on their business in the medium and long-term.
In order to collate an ‘industry’ view the SMMT also commissioned KPMG in the UK to undertake an independent study on how the sector operates in the EU.
The conclusions it reached include the UK’s appeal as a place to do automotive business and its ability to attract investment is inextricably linked to its EU membership although this is more important for manufacturing and the supply chain.
The report also cites the EU’s ‘immense’ bargaining power whilst defining technical regulations and product standards at a European level removes the complexity and costs from the UK.
The study outlined the growth of the UK’s automotive sector and its belief that it will continue to grow and employ more people. However, the report also highlighted ‘challenges’ such as regulations which need to be ‘smarter’ and support competitiveness. In addition, substantial costs of EU regulation to UK businesses, estimated to be £9.4 billion per annum (across all sectors), would have to be replaced in the event of Brexit, which means these costs are unlikely to simply just disappear.
One of the UK’s leading newspapers the Financial Times, known as the FT, looked at whether Europeans want the UK to leave.
Data from Lord Ashcroft, the former Tory peer and pollster, showed 60% want the UK to stay in, 30% want the UK to go and 10% don’t know. There was more support for the UK to stay in from Lithuania, Malta, Portugal and Ireland.