The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) revealed that 80% of its members want the UK to stay in the European Union (EU).
The majority of the 773 companies which took part in the survey believe that staying the EU is “better for business, jobs and prosperity”.
CBI members employ a combined total of nearly 7 million people – nearly one third of private sector employees. However, the CBI itself remains neutral on the matter.
Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, said: “The message from our members is resounding – most want the UK to stay in the EU because it is better for their business, jobs and prosperity.
“Walking away makes little economic sense and risks throwing away the many benefits we gain from being part of the EU.
“Our members tell us that having guaranteed access to a tariff-free market of 500 million people, and to more than 30 global trade deals covering 50 countries, are significant advantages that outweigh the frustrations.”
Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott said: “It’s welcome news that the CBI has seen sense and won’t be seeking to campaign in the referendum.”
The results of the survey revealed that larger organisations within the CBI were more likely to support remaining in the UK compared to small and medium-sized firms.
Only 5% of respondents believed that their business would benefit from a ‘Brexit’, whilst 15% said they were unsure about what would be best.
Fairbairn said that the business lobbying group will not favour any side in the campaign, but it will set out the economic case for Britain staying in the EU.
She added: “A minority of members want to leave the EU. We will continue to respect and reflect their views and campaign for EU reform to get a better deal for all businesses.
“However, most CBI members are unconvinced that alternatives to full membership would offer the same opportunities. We have yet to see those who seek to leave the EU present a compelling vision of what this would mean for jobs and growth.”
On securing the CBI’s mandate and its role in the EU referendum, Paul Drechsler, CBI President, said:
“Having secured a strong mandate from our members, the CBI will continue to play a role in shining a light on the business and economic issues at stake. We will seek to inform the public debate focussing on the implications for jobs, prices and prosperity.
“The vast majority of our members tell us their businesses have gained from being in the EU. We have consulted every one of the CBI’s councils in the last three weeks, involving firms of all sizes and sectors across the UK. All councils agreed, many unanimously, that the CBI should make the economic case for remaining.
“The referendum is a matter for the British people and it’s clear that the public will base their decision on a range of factors. The business and economic case is only one part of the story, but it is a vital one.
“The job now for the CBI and business leaders across the UK is to set out the arguments as clearly as possible for the British public. The CBI speaks on behalf of members who employ nearly seven million people and we’re proud to represent entrepreneurs, ambitious growing firms, smaller companies and some of the UK’s biggest employers, spanning all sectors across the UK.”
Maria Ferraro, Chief Financial Officer, Siemens plc – the largest engineering company in Europe, with its UK HQ in Surrey, said:
“The single market is extremely important for Siemens UK. Should Brexit occur that creates the necessity to negotiate and being Canadian, I know it took seven years for Canada to negotiate their EU trade agreement. Investment wouldn’t cease, but it would take time for stability to return and for the UK to be an attractive place to invest.”