British manufacturers favour staying in Europe

A new survey suggests that mid-size British manufacturing firms are generally in favour of remaining part of Europe – albeit with concessions


A poll by accountancy firm BDO LLP shows that around 60 per cent of Britain’s mid-market manufacturing firms are in favour of staying in the European Union.

Of the companies surveyed, 59 per cent said they wish to stay in the EU under the proposed new terms, while 67 per cent believed that leaving the EU would make it harder to run a successful business.

The survey focused on firms with annual revenue of between £10m to £300m. This broad cross section accounts for an estimated 80 per cent of the UK’s manufacturing businesses. Combined, they create one in four private sector jobs and account for around a third of the UK’s total revenue (over £1 trillion a year), according to BDO, yet make up just one per cent of all UK companies.

While the arguments for and against a so-called ‘Brexit’ are much the same for mid-sized companies as they are for other manufacturing outfits, there’s a danger that this crucial sector is being overlooked, according to BDO’s head of manufacturing, Tom Lawton.

“For many years there has been a lot of government emphasis on SMEs [with a turnover of less than £20m]. At the other end of the spectrum, the very large corporations tend to have the resources to pursue grants and support on their own. The mid-market is hugely significant, but it’s somewhat forgotten when it comes to government incentives and support for export.”

Despite being in favour of staying, mid-market firms do want further changes to the EU, BDO’s survey suggests. When asked what other reforms they would like to see, 73 per cent of firms cited less red tape. In particular, those polled wanted to see regulatory off-setting with every new regulation adopted leading to one existing EU regulation removed.

The importance of improving trade agreements to help boost exports was also highlighted. Just under half the firms surveyed (44 per cent) said they wanted the EU to have a greater focus on trade agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US and other high growth markets like India.