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Price Bailey Survey Highlights Business Leader Pessimism Over EU Outlook PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 03 June 2016
Results of a survey by Ipsos MORI among the leaders of SMEs in East Anglia and London, released last week, show that 40% believe that the general economic condition of the EU will get worse over the next 12 months, with only 14% expecting it to improve. 

The Ipsos MORI research – “Inside the Minds of Business Leaders” – was commissioned by chartered accountants and business advisers Price Bailey to investigate the issues, challenges and perceptions of businesses across London, Hertfordshire, Essex, Cambridge and Norfolk.

Findings were presented by Matt Painter, Deputy MD of Ipsos MORI Reputation Centre and questions from the floor were taken by a panel consisting of a regional business leader; James Sproule, Chief Economist and Director of Policy, IoD; Maxine Dolan, Former Group Leadership Development Director at Tesco; and Tim Pike, Deputy Agent for the South East and East Anglia at the Bank of England. The event was chaired by Price Bailey’s MD, Martin Clapson.

Despite the lack of confidence in the future economic prospects of the EU, a series of events organised by Price Bailey to discuss the findings found overwhelming support among the business leaders attending for staying in the EU, with almost three in four in Cambridge (74%) voting to remain.

The research and the subsequent events illustrated considerable variations in views about the UK’s relationship with Europe between geographical locations.

Although keen to remain in the EU, the Ipsos MORI research also showed that around half (47%) of the business leaders surveyed believe that the effect on their business of the UK leaving the EU would be neither positive nor negative. This was broadly reflected in the interactive votes at most events, although they varied by 25 percentage points from just 31% in Hertford to 56% in Cambridge.

The vote to remain in or leave the EU showed the greatest variation across regions. While in Cambridge only 12% of attendees favoured leaving the EU, in Hertford the figure was more than double that at 33%. The proportion voting to stay in the EU showed similar variation with Cambridge 18 percentage points higher than both Norwich and Hertford.

The issue of the effect of regulation on businesses showed less variation. However, although the Ipsos MORI research indicated that 53% of participants believed that the level of regulation they are faced with is negatively affecting their business, attendees at the events scored even higher with 72% of attendees at the Hertford event agreeing, with Cambridge and Norwich just below at 62% and 63% respectively. These results match closely the findings of an Ipsos MORI survey in Q4 2015 which found that 77% of 102 British Captains of Industry agreed with the statement that “the level of regulation on UK business is harming the UK economy”, indicating that it is a major issue facing both small and large businesses alike.

“When we carried out our research David Cameron had embarked on his negotiations with other EU leaders. Since then the topic has moved to the very top of the political agenda and to a large degree people’s opinions have galvanised,” commented Matthew Painter, Deputy Managing Director, Ipsos MORI Reputation Centre. “It’s interesting that while two in five (40%) of the business leaders we interviewed expect the economic condition of the EU to get worse in the next year, nevertheless only a small proportion – just 13% – feel that Britain’s leaving the EU would be best for their own business. Indeed, nearly half (47%) believe that Brexit would make no real difference to their business”.

James Sproule, Chief Economist and Director of Policy for the Institute of Directors, who sat on the panel at each event commented: “The research has shown that while confidence in the UK at individual business and county level is relatively high among this sample, there remains a strong feeling amongst 40% of the respondents that the prospects for Europe will not just stay the same but could actually get worse. A conclusion that could be drawn is that business confidence declines the more remote the level of direct control. So while business leaders have direct control over their own fortunes, they have less over that of the country as a whole, and much less in the EU. Despite that, the majority of respondents in the survey and attendees at the Price Bailey events obviously see some value in remaining within the EU.”

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