There is little doubt that the EU referendum debate is of great interest to business in the UK, Europe and internationally. Indeed, there are few other issues at the moment of such importance to our sector and for the UK’s economic future. As the cross-sectoral body for financial and related professional services, TheCityUK is keen to ensure that practitioners have a voice on the issues that matter to them.
But, what is also becoming clear is that business leaders have an instrumental role to play in the European debate itself, in helping the public to make up its mind about Europe, and setting out the hard facts and evidence.
Following our milestone study TheCitySpeaks of views from the Boardroom on the question of EU membership, which found that a significant 84% of business leaders want to stay in the EU, TheCityListens is the next step in our comprehensive EU Research Programme and comprises a public opinion tracker polling of more than 2,000 people across all of the UK undertaken in January 2014. This is the first in a series of regular tracking studies we will be undertaking into the public’s
views on Europe over the coming year.
Conducted with Millward Brown, part of the WPP group, the poll conclusively reveals that the UK’s decision on staying in the EU or exiting will be most swayed by economic factors and what will create the more jobs, with most people (in particular the “Euro Undecideds” as the decisive middle ground where any referendum on Europe will be won or lost), wanting to hear far more from UK business leaders on Europe.
Top line findings from The City Listens include:
- The economy and unemployment are seen as the most important issues facing Britain at 74%. The issue of Europe currently ranks only 7th
- Fully 82 % said they will give ‘a lot’ of thought to the potential impact on the UK economy; more so than other factors such as immigration
- A little under four in ten (39%) of people are thinking of opting-out and three in ten (33%) want to stay in Europe
- Of the “Euro Undecideds”, 61% say hearing from business leaders would be more important to them than any other group in reaching a decision on whether to stay or leave Europe
- 42% or people thought that firms’ access to customers in other European markets would be severely impacted by leaving the EU. Only 9% thought access would be better
- People also cited tourism (2.2% of GDP), manufacturing (10.1% of GDP), retail (5.6% of GDP) and financial services (7.9% of GDP) as industries that will all be damaged by an exit from the EU. This is especially concerning as the total number of people employed in these sectors is close to 5 million and their combined contribution to UK GDP is 25.8%
- 21% of respondents cited the decrease in the numbers of businesses setting up in the UK if the UK were to leave the EU as a key concern
- Those wanting to leave Europe give EU interference, immigration and costs as the main reasons for leaving
- It is clear from our study that the EU debate thus far has been too focused on opinions and not enough on the evidence. It is encouraging to see that the British public wants to hear more from business leaders in order to help them make an informed decision in the EU referendum.
It is now important to make sure the business voice is heard so that the public is given the facts and evidence needed in order to make an informed decision.