The EU Referendum…the story so far (A Chamber’s Perspective)

Back in January 2013, the Prime Minister, David Cameron announced during his speech at Bloomberg European HQ in London, that he would renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union (EU), and subsequently hold a referendum on the UK’s membership. Consequently, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few months, you’ll be aware that following the Prime Minister’s negotiations with his 27 EU counterparts, a referendum will be held on the UK’s membership of the EU on the 23rd June.

As a business membership organisation representing in excess of 1,000 businesses across the county of Northamptonshire, we recognise that the issue of the UK’s future relationship with the EU is of paramount importance – regardless of the outcome of the vote. Consequently, the Chamber, in conjunction with the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), have been active in engaging with member businesses on this very issue through a variety of mechanisms.

For example, back in August last year the BCC embarked on series of focus groups across the accredited chamber network to listen to business views and concerns surrounding the European Union, with Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce taking part. These focus groups were designed to complement the polling of member businesses and to provide a qualitative aspect of their overall research programme. The groups enable Chambers to get a better understanding of key business issues, developing of an evidence base, and making informed observations on the implications for change as part of smaller qualitative analysis.

Based on the two polls that were conducted by the BCC this year it shows that there has been a tightening of opinion with a slight lead in favour of ‘remain’. The first of which was held during David Cameron’s renegotiations with the EU and the second conducted after the negotiation had been finalised. During the negotiations, 63% of businesses polled were in favour of remaining in the EU, after the negotiations, 53% of businesses were in favour of remaining in the EU. With the latest poll showing that around 10% of businesses people were unsure or did not how they were going to vote.

On the 13th April the Electoral Commission announced that the two official campaign groups for ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ would be VoteLeave and Britain Stronger in Europe. Following on from this the BCC submitted a list of questions to both campaigns based on the main issues raised by member firms up and down the country based on polling and focus groups. The VoteLeave response can viewed here and the Britain Stronger in Europe response can be viewed here.

Furthermore, the BCC also requested one page summary sheets from both campaigns in response primarily to the series of focus groups that were held. The response from both campaigns based on the top 10 issues raised can be viewed here.

Now in the final stretch of the EU Referendum campaign, Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce have been liaising with both official campaigns in order to secure speakers for an EU Referendum debate that is taking place on 15th June. As a result we’ve secured speakers from both official campaign organisations, VoteLeave and Britain Stronger in Europe.

Taking place just 8 days prior to the Referendum itself. This presents a great opportunity to listen to both sides of the argument as well as posing questions to both speakers based issues that are pertinent to your businesses, specifically on the EU.

In advance of the EU referendum, Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce has set up several pages on its website so that members can inform themselves about the EU, to ensure that when you head to the ballot box on 23rd June you make an educated informed decision.

With very few spaces remaining, and booking essential, please contact to book your place on our EU Referendum Debate.

Author Simon Dishman

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