Poll suggests UK SMEs are split on EU vote

Britain’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are in favour of the UK remaining in the European Union, new data from financial services group Close Brothers reveals, but only by a small minority and with many firms still undecided.

The research – which canvassed the opinions of 900 SME owners and business managers from across the UK – suggests that with just weeks remaining until Britons vote on continued membership of the EU, campaigners for and against Brexit still have much to play for.

According to the survey some 44 per cent of SME owners and managers do not want the UK to leave the European Union, against 39 per cent who support Brexit. Meanwhile, 17 per cent of respondents said they are unsure about which way to vote in next month’s referendum, leaving plenty of room for either side to take a decisive lead.

The close nature of the debate reflects uncertainty about the impact Brexit would have on many businesses – 34 per cent of firms say leaving the EU would have a positive effect on their business, but exactly the same number say the impact would be negative. 32 per cent say they’re not sure what the effect would be.

“It is very clear that the debate over Brexit remains close and extremely finely balanced,” said David Thomson, CEO of Close Brothers Invoice Finance. “The level of uncertainty about the impact of the UK leaving the EU has left many business owners and managers unsure about how to vote in the referendum. Campaigners for both sides will need to make powerful arguments over the next few weeks in order to convince leaders in the SME sector to join them.”

Amongst those SMEs in favour of Brexit, 34 per cent believe they would experience faster growth with reduced regulation and red tape, while 33 per cent anticipate either reduced import costs for raw materials or increased export opportunities. In contrast, amongst those against the UK leaving the EU, 38 per cent worry about the increased costs associated with trading in Europe, while 36 per cent fear reduced export opportunities.