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West business want to be in Europe, survey shows

Businesses in the West – including those in Swindon and Wiltshire – believe being in Europe has a positive effect, according to a new survey from Business West conducted ahead of May’s European elections.

In a survey of 600 businesses, fifty percent said Britain’s membership of the EU was a positive thing, compared to 16 percent who said it was negative.

The biggest benefit was given as access to a European customer base (45 percent), whilst red tape and regulations were cited as the biggest drawback (49 percent).

More than a third of businesses said they were concerned about the uncertainty over EU membership, calling for more clarity on the matter from government.

Phil Smith, managing director of Business West, said: “There is no doubt that Europe has a big impact on our economy. In 2013 the CBI found it was worth up to five percent of the UK’s GDP, equivalent to around £70 billion. Across the South West, total exports in 2013 were worth £13.7 billion, with almost 60 percent going to countries in the EU.

“It’s not surprising that exporters tend to be much more positive about EU membership than non-exporters. But they were both united when it came to complaints about Euro red tape. So in short, businesses seem to be saying that they want to stay in the EU but not at all costs.

“Red tape and what is regarded as unreasonable regulation are seen to be stifling and acting as a barrier to economic growth and that’s the message business needs to get over to candidates when the opportunity arises.

“Above all, what business likes to see is certainty, so the run up to the long promised referendum is bound to be a nervous time for exporters who are a vital driver for our economy. They need the comfort of knowing whether we are going to be in or out.”

The European elections will be held on May 22. Candidates will be contesting six seats, with the South West constituency covering Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire and the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar.