We all know that big business is in favour of EU membership, don’t we? After all, as Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones put it to Nigel Farage in the Cardiff debate, “The CBI says we must stay in the EU”. (Nigel replied “The CBI has been wrong on every major issue since the Gold Standard in 1929”).
But a new IPSOS-MORI survey of 102 of the UK’s top 500 companies gives a slightly different view.
Ipsos Mori is arguably the most pro-EU of large polling companies, and the respondents are from a segment traditionally seen as strongly pro-EU. Two thirds of them have operations in the EU and nearly a half regard themselves as multi-nationals. Yet the results were less promising than Europhiles might hope.
39% want the relationship to remain broadly the same (which is not on offer as the Eurozone will integrate and ultimately draw the UK in – something which only 7% of respondents wanted).
49% want to drop political union (i.e. they want to leave the EU and return to trade only – it’s unclear whether this is EFTA, EEA or WTO).
1% want to leave altogether (presumably happy with either the WTO or a bespoke trade agreement).
Half say leaving the EU will make no difference to trade with the rest of the world. Three quarters said it will make no difference to recruitment.
There is little or no market impact caused by referendum “uncertainty” – only 5% said they had delayed or reduced investment as a result.
This means that half of the UK’s biggest companies want to leave the EU (and yet the FT spins this as “captains of industry want to stay”).
It would be more accurate to read the survey as revealing that, even amongst the UK’s biggest businesses, 89% don’t want what the EU will become, and for those that see benefits the biggest is the ability to use EU membership to compress UK wages.
Given that the survey was conducted by Ipsos Mori, and focused on a traditionally pro-EU segment of the UK, the pro-EU camp must be wetting their beds. No wonder the FT has to spin so hard.