As Big Ben chimed 10pm on Thursday 5th May, 2015 and it became clear – based on exit polls – that the Conservative Party under David Cameron would win the General Election and form a majority Government, the path to a referendum on the UKs membership of the EU was set. As outlined in the Conservative Party Manifesto.
Almost immediately after the General Election, David Cameron began a whistle-stop tour of European capitals to embark on a frantic round of shuttle diplomacy designed to renegotiate the UKs future relationship with Europe. A draft of the Prime Minister’s proposals were released at the beginning of February with the media rushing to pass judgement whilst businesses awaited the final agreement. Central to the Prime Minsters’ proposals were; sovereignty; migrant and welfare benefits; economic governance; and competiveness.
“Negotiations have come to end with the ‘in/out’ campaign kicking into high gear this weekend”
The Prime Ministers’ negotiations came to dramatic conclusion late last week during a marathon EU Council Summit chaired by former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Businesses will be relieved the negotiations have come to end with the ‘in/out’ campaign kicking into high gear this weekend, allowing cabinet members finally, free reign to air their views and to come out in support of either campaign.
In a recent poll of member businesses across the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) network stated that whilst paying close attention to the debate the EU has had little material impact on their business to date. Furthermore, the ‘Remain’ camp were ahead two-to-one amongst business voters whilst there was notable divisions depending on size of business and whether they exported. Finally, two in three business leaders said that a renegotiated deal for UK would be unlikely to change their voting intentions.
“Business opinion clearly shows that neither campaign can be reliant on a change of views even now that negotiations have concluded.”
Evidence by a poll of member firms by the BCC from last September shows that businesses despite not knowing the shape of the negotiations had already made up their minds on whether to ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’. Business opinion clearly shows that neither campaign can be reliant on a change of views even now that negotiations have concluded.
Ultimately for business leaders when they go to the ballot box on June 23rd will be a decision either to remain in a largely unchanged EU, albeit with some potential new safeguards for the UK or a future outside the EU, with the near-term uncertainty and disruption of leaving.
Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce will not be campaigning on either side – Remain or Leave – during the forthcoming referendum period, but will continue to undertake surveys, seek information from both official campaigns, and inform businesses.
What do you think?
Finally we’d love to hear thoughts and views on your relationship with the European Union and how it impacts on your business. The will help shape the Chambers lobbying work carried out your behalf.
Please visit our website regularly for further updates on the European Union Referendum and other business related topics.
Author Simon Dishman