UK business support for remaining in the EU has dropped

The percentage of UK businesses in favour of Britain staying in the European Union has declined over the past six months, according to a quarterly survey of the country’s largest businesses by Deloitte.

Most still believe that the UK should remain in the EU. However, the percentage of businesses backing a ‘Brexit’ rose to 6% from 2%.

The survey, conducted between 11 November and 2 December 2015, included 137 chief financial officers (CFOs) of FTSE 350 and large private companies.

There was an increase in the number of business leaders saying that their decision on whether or not the UK should remain in the EU depends on the outcome of the renegotiation of membership – up from 23% to 28%.

Primer Minister David Cameron promised the public a referendum on the UK’s EU membership by the end of 2017.

David Sproul, senior partner and chief executive of Deloitte, said: “A clear majority of CFOs continue to favour the UK remaining in the EU, but the proportion of those expressing unqualified support has fallen. This mirrors what we have seen from the broader public in opinion polls in the last six months.

“With around one-third of CFOs undecided on their position or awaiting the outcome of renegotiation discussions, the eventual deal may well significantly affect business attitudes to EU membership.”

UK corporate sentiment falls to six-year low

Deloitte’s Q4 2015 survey also asked CFOs how optimistic they are about the prospects for their company compared to three months ago.

The results revealed that 30% of CFOs are less optimistic, up from 20% in the second quarter, while just 12% said that they are more optimistic, down from 36% six months ago.

Corporate sentiment in the UK has dropped for three consecutive quarters and is now at its lowest level since Q2 2012, according to the survey.