A recent study by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) asked its members for their views on the forthcoming referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union (EU).
It gathered quantitative and qualitative data from over 6,263 respondents - the first time the FSB has gathered opinions on the subject on such a scale.
The aim of the research was to act as a temperature check on what FSB members currently think about the UK's membership of the EU, and how a vote to leave or remain in the EU is perceived to impact them and their businesses.
The study also examined the voting intentions of its members and their views on EU reform. The report provides a unique insight into regional and national voting preferences of small businesses.
Almost half of respondents (47%) said they would opt to stay in the EU, which rose to 60% in some regions. However, 10.7% were still undecided on how to vote.
Related article: What would “Brexit” mean for Small Businesses?
Amongst those most likely to vote ‘yes’ were members in Scotland (59.9%) and Northern Ireland (54.2%).
In England, London had the highest percentage of ‘yes’ voters (55.4%), followed closely by the North East with 51.3%.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, exporters to the EU and employers of non-UK EU nationals were the most in favour, with 66.33% and 60.7% respectively saying they would vote to stay in the EU.
Female voters were also more likely to vote ‘yes’, with 51.3% saying they would do so.
The region least in favour of Britain’s membership of the EU was the East Midlands with 48.7% of business owners saying they would vote ‘no’. This was followed by Yorkshire and the Humber and the West Midlands, with 47.8% and 47% respectively.
England remains the most divided country, with 45.1% in favour of EU membership, 43.1% against and 11.8% still undecided.
Female voters were more likely than men to be undecided at 14.5%, compared to men at 10.9%.
Of those that said they would vote for the UK to remain a member of the EU, the most popular outcome was the transfer of EU powers back to the UK with 34.7% voting in favour of this.
Only 25.8% of the ‘yes’ vote wanted the EU to remain in its current form and even less (12.9%) said they would like to see further integration with the EU.
Of the ‘no’ voters, 42.7% would like the UK to withdraw from the EU and concentrate on strengthening its trade links with the rest of the world.
29.1% of the ‘no’ vote said they would like the UK to withdraw from the EU and negotiate individual trade and other agreements with the EU and individual member states, whereas 22.1% wanted the UK to withdraw from the EU, but remain in the European Economic Area (EEA).
It would appear that many organisations still lack a proper understanding of the business implications of Britain’s membership of the EU, with 37% of FSB members surveyed saying that they did not feel ‘informed’ about the forthcoming referendum from a business point of view.
Policy director at the FSB, Mike Cherry said: “This research is a vital starting point in outlining the key issues and areas of concern for small businesses in the EU referendum debate. Regardless of what a firm's current position is, there is a shared message that small businesses feel they lack clear, impartial information on which to form their views.”
“This [survey] is only the beginning of our work to support our members throughout this complex debate. Our role will be to ensure the small business voice is heard in the discussion, and that our members have all the information they need to make a decision which is right for them and their business.”
The full report can be found here.
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