Brexit Support Grows

Scaremongering by pro-EU campaigners ahead of next month’s referendum has triggered a surge in support for Brexit among businesses, a new survey shows.

The share of business leaders who said they would vote to stay inside the bloc fell to 54.1pc in April, compared with 60pc in February, according to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

In the BCC’s final EU survey before the June 23 vote, the proportion of companies that said they would vote to leave climbed to 37pc, from 30pc three months ago. A tenth remain undecided.

It came as George Osborne warned that “tens of thousands” of the 285,000 jobs that link the City to the EU would be in jeopardy if Britain left the bloc.

Speaking at an FT event, the Chancellor claimed a vote to leave would “put at risk” £20bn of annual EU financial services exports.

The majority of businesses surveyed also said the looming vote had “no impact” to date on business activity, suggesting fears of a UK growth slowdown linked to the referendum have been exaggerated.

Just over 87pc of executives said they had no recruitment difficulties, while 80pc said investment intentions were unaffected.

While the majority of businesses back Britain’s EU membership, the findings highlight how support for a Brexit has grown among businesses that have not been swayed by the concessions won by the Government from Brussels.

The 2,200 businesses polled were not asked why their voting intentions had changed since February.

However, Adam Marshall, acting director-general of the BCC, said the results suggested companies felt they had been bombarded by rhetoric instead of facts.

“Anecdotally, many business people have told us that they have been disappointed by the quality of the arguments put forward by both sides of the debate – and that their desire to have more information, rather than rhetoric, has not been fulfilled,” he said.

The survey, which was conducted between April 5 and 14, was held before the Treasury’s report on Brexit and an intervention by US President Barack Obama, who urged Britain to remain in the EU.

Both camps have stepped up the rhetoric in recent weeks. David Cameron, the prime minister, warned this week that a Brexit would raise the chance of Europe descending into war.

Support for leaving the EU has climbed significantly since last September, when 27pc of businesses backed a Brexit.

However, a separate survey by the Institute of Directors showed leaders were split 63pc to 29pc in favour of remain.


May 2016