SMEs are less sure on Europe than big businesses

Small and medium enterprises in the UK are split over the forthcoming referendum on whether to stay in the EU, a new study has found. Big businesses, meanwhile, are far more likely to lean towards staying.


The YouGov poll divided businesses into three distinct categories – large companies in the FTSE 100 or FTSE 250, digital entrepreneurs, and SMEs. With an average size of 25 employees, the digital entrepreneurs would technically be classed as small businesses but were considered separately to ‘regular’ SMEs.


Of these groupings, 93% of big businesses were in favour of remaining in the European Union, with only 7% wanting to leave. It wasn’t quite as one-sided amongst the digital entrepreneurs but it was still pretty clear-cut, with 88% saying we should stay and 12% expressing the opinion that the UK would be better off leaving.


More SMEs thought the UK should stay in the EU than thought we should leave, but the split was far more even, with 47% wanting to remain and 42% wanting to leave. This was also more in line with the overall mood of the general public. When polled by YouGov in December, 41% of people thought the UK should remain, with 42% wanting to leave the EU.


Many SMEs are also worried that – regardless of which way the British public votes – the continuing uncertainty until the referendum takes place could itself be damaging. In an earlier survey called Collaborate UK 2015, 60% of SMEs said that uncertainty about the UK’s continuing membership of the EU was having an impact on their long-term growth plans. A quarter said that this uncertainty “prevents them planning ahead to a significant degree”. Forward planning is essential for any business looking to achieve growth and can help companies avoid the need for interventions such as business rescue.


Of the SMEs polled in the YouGov survey, opinions varied widely. Some expressed the view that it would be a “financial disaster to leave” while others claimed that the EU had “created some huge obstacles to small business”.


By Phil Smith


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