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London business and the EU referendum

The Government’s promise to hold an EU referendum by the end of 2017 has become a major issue for many of London’s businesses.

To determine what role London First should play, we sent our members a short survey. The results showed that, overwhelmingly, the instincts of our members are to remain in the EU, with no-one advocating “Brexit”.

It is also fair to say that many would like to see the EU reformed to make it more outward-looking and more focused on competitiveness.

Views varied about the degree to which reform should be a condition of staying in, as opposed to living with an imperfect construct and seeking to negotiate from within, with most swaying towards the latter.

Perhaps due to their support of this predominant view, most preferred getting the referendum over with as quickly as possible.

As far as London First’s role is concerned, a majority (52%) felt that the referendum and the issues it raises should be a key priority for London First, whereas 40% advocated it being one of the many competitiveness issues we keep an active eye on. A small group (7%) felt we should not be involved at all.

We have discussed the results of this survey with our Board, who shared the members’ instincts that we should remain in the EU, and express that position publicly. However, they also felt it was important to support the Prime Minister in his efforts to negotiate whatever terms of reform might be achievable.

The Board concluded that our primary focus should be on doing what we can to help inform the debate with a clear presentation of the facts, based on objective research and analysis, including case studies and testimonials from members.

This research would cover the benefits of the EU to businesses in London and the wider economy, where reform could further enhance those benefits, and the potential impact of withdrawal from the EU. This activity will be targeted at both opinion formers and the general public.

As the negotiations proceed we would of course keep our contribution to the debate under review, along with our public stance, consulting our members as appropriate.

We are therefore intending to build up our resource in researching and publicising information about the EU (of course piggy-backing on others, rather than duplicating where we can). We will approach you again on this subject, but in the meantime, if you would like to contribute through funding, secondment, help with research or dissemination, please get in touch.

In summary, the survey found that:

  • 81% of members think Britain should stay in the EU, playing a stronger leadership role in shaping its agenda,
  • 57% think the Government should seek to conclude negotiations with the EU institutions swiftly and intend to hold a referendum in 2016,
  • 33% think the Government should undertake negotiations at a slower pace with an expectation of a referendum in 2017
  • 52% think campaigning for the UK’s continued membership of the EU over the next few years should be a very high priority,
  • 41% believe it is one of the many competitiveness issues facing London and should receive similar attention to issues such as infrastructure, housing and air capacity.
    For the full results of the questionnaire, please click here.

Contact: David Lutton, dlutton@londonfirst.co.uk

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