The CBI’s Chairmen’s Committee has taken the final step in endorsing the leading business group’s mandate to make the economic case for the UK to remain in the EU. It comes after the CBI reaffirmed its member mandate following a rigorous governance process through the organisation’s “business parliament” and publication of a new member survey.

Across the UK, the CBI speaks on behalf of 190,000 businesses of all sizes and sectors. A clear majority of CBI member companies – which together employ nearly 7 million people, about one third of private sector employees – believe that it would be in the best interests of their business and the wider UK economy to remain inside the EU. This is according to an independent survey carried out by polling company ComRes.

It reveals 80% of CBI members who responded, when weighted to reflect its membership – including 71% of small and mid-sized business members – believe that the UK remaining a member of the EU would be best for their business. Overall, 5% say it is in their firms’ best interests for the UK to leave the EU, with 15% unsure.

The survey forms part of a thorough consultation process with the CBI’s governance network of three national councils (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), nine regional councils, eleven standing policy and sector committees. This culminated in an endorsement from the Chairmen’s Committee – the CBI’s highest policy making body – which met on Monday. This round of 24 separate consultations has taken place over the last three weeks, with a clear majority in each meeting backing the business case to remain in the EU.

CBI London Director, Lucy Haynes, said:

“The message from our members is resounding – most want the UK to stay in the EU because it is better for their business, jobs and prosperity.

“Walking away makes little economic sense and risks throwing away the many benefits we gain from being part of the EU.

“Our members tell us that having guaranteed access to a tariff-free market of 500 million people, and to more than 30 global trade deals covering 50 countries, are significant advantages that outweigh the frustrations.

“A minority of members want to leave the EU. We will continue to respect and reflect their views and campaign for EU reform to get a better deal for all businesses.

“However, most CBI members are unconvinced that alternatives to full membership would offer the same opportunities. We have yet to see those who seek to leave the EU present a compelling vision of what this would mean for jobs and growth.

“We will not align ourselves with any campaign. Though prosperity, jobs and future living standards matter to many people, we recognise there will be other considerations.

It is not our place to tell people how to vote, but the CBI will play its role in making the economic case for remaining in the EU.”

On securing the CBI’s mandate and its role in the EU referendum, Paul Drechsler, CBI President, said:

Paul Drechsler, CBI President (Image credit: CBI)
Paul Drechsler, CBI President (Image credit: CBI)

“The vast majority of our members tell us their businesses have gained from being in the EU. We have consulted every one of the CBI’s councils in the last three weeks, involving firms of all sizes and sectors across the UK. All councils agreed, many unanimously, that the CBI should make the economic case for remaining.

“The referendum is a matter for the British people and it’s clear that the public will base their decision on a range of factors. The business and economic case is only one part of the story, but it is a vital one.

Other key survey findings:

  • 77% of CBI member organisations say that remaining in the EU would be in the best interest of the wider UK economy, while 6% say that leaving the EU would be in the best interest of the UK economy
  • CBI member organisations that operate inside the EU (excluding the UK) are more likely to say that a ‘remain’ result is in their best interest than those who do not – 83% against 76%
  • CBI members based in London are the most likely of all UK regions to say that a ‘remain’ result would be in the best interest of their organisation (85%). Members in the Midlands and East of England are the least likely (75%), although a strong majority still say that remaining in the EU would be in the best interest of their organisation
  • 73% of trade association respondents think it would be in the best interest of the UK economy to remain inside the EU. 27% are unsure and 0% want the UK to leave
  • CBI member organisations that invest in (84%) and export to the EU (82%) are marginally more likely to say a ‘remain’ result would be in the best interest of their organisation than those who do not (77%)
  • In terms of sector breakdown, 77% of CBI members in the construction sector think it would be best for their organisation if the UK stayed in the EU – for production (manufacturing, utilities etc.) the figure is 78%. Other notable returns include members from the financial and insurance sectors (81%), professional scientific and technical (83%), and education (83%)
  • Comparable to the findings above, large organisations within the CBI membership are more likely than SMEs to say that in the upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, remaining in the EU would be in the best interest of the UK economy as a whole (81% v 65%). 15% of SME members say that leaving the EU would be in the best interests of the UK economy, compared to 4% of large members.

According to Electoral Commission guidance, any organisation which spends more than £10,000 on “Referendum Expenses” during the referendum period must register with the UK Electoral Commission. The referendum period will run from 15 April until the poll closes on 23 June.

The CBI presently is not planning to register as a permitted participant with the Electoral Commission. The CBI will remain compliant whilst continuing to represent the views of its members in the referendum debate e.g. through press releases and broadcast interviews. The CBI is in touch with the Electoral Commission who have provided guidance and has taken independent legal advice to ensure our plans comply.

Expressing their support for remaining in the EU, CBI members said:

“To a truly global company like Weir, the EU delivers easy and guaranteed access to a market of over 500m people.  At the same time, we benefit from its substantial weight in trade negotiations, helping British business succeed around the world.  I fully support continued membership and would like to see the UK lead a reformed EU that seeks to deepen the single market even further.” – Keith Cochrane, CEO, The Weir Group PLC – an engineering business headquartered in Glasgow

“The message from UK Automotive is clear – being in Europe is vital to the future of our industry to secure jobs, investment and growth. An independent survey of our members – large and small – confirmed the overwhelming view that remaining in Europe is best for their business, giving access to the single market, its skilled workforce and the ability to influence regulations. The sector is thriving, with record exports and new vehicle registrations and the highest manufacturing levels for a decade. Our members are clear that leaving Europe could jeopardise this success.” – Mike Hawes, Chief Executive, SMMT – Trade Association for the UK’s automotive industry

“As a growing SME based in Newcastle, the logical first step out of Britain was into Europe for two reasons – firstly, we had a really strong niche in the pharmaceutical space, and secondly many of our clients have European interests. Creative and digital service industries like ours don’t export in the traditional way that goods companies do – but we benefit just as much from EU membership and could be impacted badly by exit.” – Raman Sehgal, Managing Director, ramarketing PR – a small, fast-growing marketing and PR agency based in Newcastle