With just over a month to go to the EU Referendum, almost half of firms in the East Midlands have only a limited understanding of any business implications of the UK leaving the EU, according to new research.


The survey of local businesses found that 48% of respondents said they had no or only some understanding of how a vote to leave might potentially impact access to skilled labour, their prices and costs and trade with EU and non-EU countries, or the effect it might have on the UK’s political governance.


The research, carried out by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) on behalf of East Midlands Chamber*, also found that 47% of respondents from Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, would vote for the UK to remain a part of the EU, while 39% would vote leave.


The results would indicate that voting intentions have tightened since the last time East Midlands businesses were polled, in September 2016, when 56% of respondents indicated they intended to vote to remain and 26% said they would vote for the UK to leave.


Almost 95% of respondents said they are unlikely to change which way they will vote on 23 June.


Just over half (53%) of respondents either didn’t know or believed a leave vote would have no impact on their overall growth strategy, 60% on their import/supply chain strategy, 57% on their export strategy and 45% on their profitability, while 79% were unsure about the potential impact upon their tax management.


The majority of local respondents also reported that the Referendum campaign has had no impact to date on various aspects of their business, from orders and sales (76%), recruitment (92%), and investment (85%), to total costs (86%).


Chamber Chief Executive Scott Knowles said: “With the EU Referendum almost upon us, the business vote has tightened. Although a majority of the businesses we surveyed continued to express a preference to remain in the European Union, the gap between Remain and Leave has narrowed significantly.


East Midlands Chamber : 2015 East Midlands International Trade Expo & Conference (E-ITEC) : Photograph by ©Lionel Heap 07977 597674.
East Midlands Chamber : 2015 East Midlands International Trade Expo & Conference (E-ITEC) : Photograph by ©Lionel Heap 07977 597674.

“It is worrying that almost a half of respondents said they had no understanding of implications to business of leaving the EU and nearly a quarter did not know how it might impact the way the UK trades with the EU. Many Chamber members have expressed frustration that the public debate to date has been characterised not by fact, but by spin and rhetoric from both sides.


“The Chamber will continue to support its members with information and briefing sessions on how the UK’s relationship with the EU currently works and the different questions that will have to be answered in the event of a vote to leave.


“Ultimately, it is people on the street, and not businesses themselves, who will have their say on 23 June, so all voters who own or run a business and employ people will need to make their decision based on the trade and economic prospects of staying in, or leaving, the EU.


“Regardless of whether the vote results in the UK staying or leaving the EU, the Chamber will be on the front foot to ensure its members have access to the right information to support their planning for continued success.”


The Chamber, in partnership with law firm Eversheds, has produced a fact-based briefing document about the UK’s current relationship with the EU and how this might change in the wake of a vote to either remain a member, or to leave. It can be downloaded from http://bit.ly/24JgDns.


The Chamber, in partnership with fellow business organisation Nottingham Means Business, is also hosting an EU business debate, aimed at providing firms from across the region with a variety of perspectives from the Referendum campaign, to enable them to make an informed decision at the ballot box.


Guest speakers will include Gabe Winn, of Britain Stronger in Europe, and Dave Buik, a supporter of Vote Leave. The business perspective will be explored by two local business owners, with Ian Baxter, of Baxter Freight, discussing why he believes the UK should stay in the EU and Nigel Baxter, of RH Commercial Vehicles, showing his support for leaving the EU.


It takes place at Nottingham Trent University’s Conference Centre, in Nottingham, between 8am and 10am on 18 May. Places are free and can be booked online at http://bit.ly/1ZA2v90.


It is worrying that almost a half of respondents said they had no understanding of implications to business of leaving the EU and nearly a quarter did not know how it might impact the way the UK trades with the EU.

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