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Business Continuity

Brexit - politics vs business

Scotland voted to stay in the UK, the British General Election is over, and the situation in Greece has stabilised to a degree. So now it’s time for the next panic in Europe: Britain’s membership in the European Union. Any actual vote on a “Brexit” is still a while off yet, but that hasn’t stopped soapboxes being stood upon and economists fretting.

Of the few who have spoken up so far, many have been in the “stay” group: the chief executives at both BT and Vodafone, two of the UK’, two UK tech bellwethers, have said such a move would be a bad idea.

A study by The Entrepreneurs Network showed a sharp division as to how the two main political parties feel a Brexit would impact UK businesses and entrepreneurs. Just under 60% of Conservative MPs think Britain leaving the EU would be good for business (12% negative), while 95% of Labour supports think it would be bad for business (compared to 1% who think it would be a positive move). In total around 30% of MPs asked felt a Brexit would be good with a further 15% unsure or citing no impact.

Such dividing lines aren’t that surprising, but clearly David Cameron’s party – the one leading the country and therefore likely to have the most influence in the outcome of any referendum – is yet to do much straw polling about how entrepreneurs actually feel about the subject. Aside from the potential harm it could do it the economy, most business leaders inside the UK and out are wary about the possibility of Britain leaving the EU; in fact, pretty much every survey on the subject shows the majority of businesses don’t like the idea.

According to a study by accounting firm Grant Thornton, 64% of 2,500 Eurozone business leaders think a Brexit would have a negative impact – 72% of that study’s UK respondents agreed. Another study by the European Business Awards saw similar results: 85% of 437 European business executives want Britain to remain in the EU; 90% from the mainland, and 75% from the UK. 

It’s not just pan-European studies. A study from the British Chambers of Commerce saw 63% of UK businesses believe leaving the European Union would harm Britain, while a survey by the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA) also found that 63% of the UK FTSE 350 think a Brexit would be damaging to their businesses. Only 3% thought there’d be a positive impact yet most would be unwilling to speak up publicly to remain in the EU. Considering how pro-business the Conservative Party is traditionally seen to be, it’s surprising how far off the party is on this issue. For now it’s likely these views are based more in rhetoric and echoing fears of their Eurosceptic grassroots than much in the way of research, but hopefully that will change long before we make it to the polling booths.

Do you think a Brexit would be good for the technology industry in the UK (or Europe)? Comment and let us know.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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