A study of FSB members views on the UK s membership of the European Union

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1 A study of FSB members views on the UK s membership of the European Union Published: 17 September A report by Verve Partners Ltd commissioned by the FSB

2 A study of FSB members views on the UK s membership of the European Union Contents 1. Executive summary Understanding FSB members views on EU membership Possible business impact of the EU referendum FSB member voting intentions Addressing the information deficit Methodology Appendix

3 FSB members views on the EU The FSB should use its powerful position to encourage the Government to publish the basic facts (about the EU) in an unbiased way FSB member Imagine the referendum was held today, how would you vote? Map showing breakdown of FSB member Yes/No/Undecided vote in the UK* 47.0% YES 78% of FSB members have a view on the EU 40.9% NO 10.7% UNDECIDED 1 in 3 FSB members who would vote Yes/No do not feel informed about the EU from a business point of view 54.2% 31.3% 13.5% 59.9% 25.7% 11.9% 49.4% 38.6% 11.6% YES NO UNDECIDED 45.1% 43.1% 10.5% * Full breakdown of how the UK voted is available in figure 17 & 18 in the report. If the UK was to stay in the EU, FSB members want If the UK was to leave the EU, FSB members want 34.7% 25.8% 21.4% 42.7% 29.1% 22.1% transfer of powers back to UK EU to stay the same other reforms strengthen trade links with the rest of the world 3 individual trade agreements with the EU and individual member states to remain part of the European Economic Area

4 A study of FSB members views on the UK s membership of the European Union Mike Cherry FSB Policy Director A foreword from the FSB The Government has announced it will hold an in/out referendum on the UK s membership of the European Union (EU) by the end of The role of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) will be to ensure that small businesses have a strong voice in the debate and that members have access to all the information they need to make a decision that is right for them and their business. To help with these objectives, the FSB commissioned leading independent market research agency Verve to carry out a survey of the FSB s membership and a series of in-depth online discussion forums with participants drawn from those who responded to the survey. This research has revealed, for the first time in such breadth and depth, the views of the small business community on the UK s membership of the EU. It has also gauged what information small businesses need to help make an informed decision when the referendum takes place. It is not the role of the FSB to take a position on the referendum question, nor to advise members on how to vote on it. This report we are publishing today is only the start of an ongoing piece of work to help members understand the potential implications of all the likely scenarios of staying in or leaving the EU. Rebecca Stamp Verve Director of Client Services A foreword from Verve With an in/out referendum on the UK s membership of the EU on the horizon, the FSB commissioned us to undertake a research project to identify and understand the current views of its members regarding the UK s membership of the EU and the upcoming EU referendum. The chosen research method needed to be robust, both in terms of the range of FSB members to be represented and the reliability of the resulting insight. It also needed to be one which allowed us to ascertain in-depth current attitudes towards EU membership, exploring the drivers of these attitudes and identifying what resources FSB members would require to make an informed judgement as the debate intensifies. Crucially, it was essential there was no bias in the research methods, to allow for views to be expressed but not steered towards any pre-ordained conclusion. To this end we employed a mixed-method research approach, starting with an online quantitative survey designed to establish FSB members opinions across a range of key issues around the UK s EU membership. This was followed by a 12 day-long series of online discussion forums across three separate communities of FSB members representing different voting intentions. The survey was sent to every FSB member that had agreed to be contacted by the FSB and provided a valid address. FSB members are not companies themselves FSB members are individual business owners. Given the subject matter, we were expecting healthy engagement with the research, but we were still very impressed with the level of participation from FSB members. We received 6,263 survey responses and over 1,300 individual comments in the online discussion communities. This is a robust and representative sample of small firms in the FSB s membership. 4

5 A note on reading this report 1. Wording of the referendum question On 1 st September 2015 the Electoral Commission recommended an amendment to the EU referendum question from: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union? with responses to be Yes / No ; to: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? with responses to be Remain a member of the European Union / Leave the European Union. The UK Government subsequently agreed to make this amendment to the EU Referendum Bill The research for this report was carried out in June and July 2015 when the former question wording was in circulation. 2. Interpretation of the data Where the words significant or significantly appear in the report, they are used strictly in the statistical sense, i.e. where the difference between two figures are real and statistically significant (based on 95% confidence level). Please refer to the Methodology section for a full explanation of statistical significance and how it applies to the findings from the research. All percentage figures were rounded to 1 decimal point. Where percentages do not sum up to 100, this may be due to computer rounding, the exclusion of don t know categories, or multiple answers. 3. Qualitative verbatim Verbatim comments made by FSB members in the online discussion forums have been used throughout this report to help illustrate and highlight key findings. All verbatim comments have been anonymised and attributed with the voting intention, type of business, and location of the FSB member. Each verbatim comment sets out the individual view of the FSB member that made them. They do not reflect the view of Verve nor the FSB, but are presented here to illustrate views made to us during the research exercise. 4. Undecided Throughout the research, we have included FSB members who answered Undecided when we report on percentage figures. All points of view such as Yes, No or Undecided were important to analyse in this report. When a figure such as a 51.4% YES figure is presented this should not be interpreted as meaning that 48.6% is a NO figure. This is not the case as there will be FSB members who responded Undecided within the 100% total. 5. Voters Throughout the report, we refer to voters as Yes, No or Undecided voters or those who voted Yes, No or Undecided. This refers to their voting intention at the point at which the research was conducted (June/July 2015) and based on the information they were aware of at that time. 5

6 A study of FSB members views on the UK s membership of the European Union 1. Executive Summary The Government has pledged to hold a referendum on the UK s membership of the European Union (EU) by the end of The purpose of this research was to identify and understand FSB members current views regarding the EU referendum and as far as possible, their current voting intentions from a business perspective rather than a personal one. The research also aimed to understand what members perceive to be the impact of the outcome of the referendum on their business, and what information they may need to make a fully informed decision. The research was carried out in a two staged approach with a quantitative online survey and a qualitative online discussion forum. The key findings from the research are: 1. Although the majority of FSB members have a view on the EU membership debate, fewer than half claim to feel informed about the forthcoming referendum from a business point of view. 2. Opinion is divided on whether the UK s existing membership of the EU is beneficial for the UK economy and/or for a member s business. Opinions also vary across the membership on whether it is beneficial for their nation, region, or themselves personally. Members take into account a number of factors when making their assessment, but these factors are not exclusively business-related: for many, the business and the personal viewpoint are hard to separate in practice. 3. At this point in time, if a referendum were held today, and based upon the information they know now, 47.0% of FSB members would vote Yes, the UK should remain a member of the EU; 40.9% of FSB members would vote No, the UK should NOT remain a member of the EU; and 10.7% would be Undecided. Beyond the simple in or out question, opinion is divided on both sides of the vote as to which scenario they would like to see happen if the UK were either to remain or to leave the EU. 4. There is a clear and widespread desire among FSB members for access to more neutral information about the EU referendum in the run-up to the vote. As noted, this research evaluates current opinions and intentions, based on members present level of knowledge of the issues and potential outcomes of either leaving the EU or remaining a member. It also evaluates responses to the original wording of the EU referendum question, which was amended after the research fieldwork had taken place. 1.1 Although the majority of FSB members have formed a view on the EU membership debate, fewer than half claim to feel informed about the forthcoming referendum from a business point of view 78.0% 1 of FSB members claim to have a firm view regarding the UK s membership of the EU. However, their responses in both the quantitative and qualitative phases of the research showed that many believe they are basing their views on an incomplete understanding of the EU. They also felt they lacked clarity on the impact of the UK s membership of the EU on the UK economy in general, and specifically on their own business. 1 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q1. Which of the following best describes how you feel about the European Union debate at this time? Base: FSB members (6,263) 6

7 Lack of understanding and a need for clear unbiased information is a consistent theme throughout the research: Fewer than half (40.8%) 2 say that they feel informed about the forthcoming referendum from a business point of view. Only one in five 3 (19.2%) feel very well informed about the EU referendum from a business point of view. A third of those who claim they would vote Yes 4 (31.8%) or No 5 (32.9%) (if the referendum were held today) feel they are not informed Opinion is divided on whether the UK s existing membership of the EU is beneficial for the UK economy and/or for a member s business Opinions on whether the UK s existing membership of the EU is beneficial are varied. The perceived impact of the EU on the UK economy, members businesses, or members personally, differs widely. Overall, 50.5% 7 of FSB members believe that the UK s existing membership of the EU is beneficial for the UK economy; however that contrasts with only 34.9% 8 believing that it is beneficial for their own business. The picture beneath this result is nuanced: members who are more likely to see the EU as beneficial are those that rely on exports or imports from the EU and/or employ non-uk EU nationals. Conversely, members who do not rely on EU imports and exports are less likely to see the EU as beneficial. We observe similar differences among the individual nations and regions, with some seeing the UK s membership of the EU being more beneficial for the UK economy or their business than others. Regarding the perceived impact of remaining in or leaving the EU, currently 41.3% 9 of members anticipate that withdrawal from the EU would have a very or somewhat negative impact on their business. In comparison, 20.3% 10 perceive that remaining in the EU would have a negative impact on their business. Again, there are nuances in the results: for example, FSB members in certain UK nations and regions, those who rely on exports to or imports from the EU, and those who employ non-uk EU nationals, are more likely to anticipate a negative impact on their business if the UK was to leave the EU. When asked to expand on their views, FSB members offer a wide variety of topics on which their views are based, including: freedom of movement; trade agreements; and regulation. However, their stance is not always based exclusively on business-related factors. This was illustrated in particular during the qualitative phase of our research. FSB members recognised that there could be a conflict in their own minds between the more specific business case, and the broader personal case, for or against EU membership. 2 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q3. How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the EU? Base: FSB members (6,263) NET informed: those who scored 4-5 on a 5 point scale where 5 is very well informed 3 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q3. How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the EU? Base: FSB members (6,263) 4 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q6. Imagine that the referendum on whether the UK should remain a member of the EU was held today. Based upon the information you know today, how would you vote? Base: FSB members (6,263) 5 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q6. Imagine that the referendum on whether the UK should remain a member of the EU was held today. Based upon the information you know today, how would you vote? Base: FSB members (6,263) 6 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q3. How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the EU? Base: FSB members (6,263) NET not informed: those who scored 1-2 on a 5 point scale where 1 is not at all informed 7 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for Base: FSB members (6,263) NET agree: Slightly/strongly agree 8 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for Base: FSB members (6,263) NET agree: Slightly/strongly agree 9 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q5. Thinking specifically about your business(es) and the market it operates in, what impact would the following have on your business(es)? Base: FSB members (6,263) 10 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q5. Thinking specifically about your business(es) and the market it operates in, what impact would the following have on your business(es)? Base: FSB members (6,263) NET negative: very/somewhat negative impact 7

8 A study of FSB members views on the UK s membership of the European Union Alongside those who believe the outcome of the referendum will have either a positive or a negative impact, an important third group emerges from the research. This group is made up of FSB members who believe that EU membership has little or no impact on their business, and thus for whom remaining or withdrawing is perceived to have little impact. Around one third (33.6% 11 ) claim that leaving the EU will have no impact on their business; and 37.7% 12 claim that remaining in the EU will have no impact on their business. 1.3 EU referendum: how would FSB members vote if it were held today? If the EU referendum were held today, based on the information they know now, 47.0% of FSB members would vote Yes for the UK to remain in the EU, 40.9% would vote No, and 10.7% would be undecided 13. As to be expected, a number of variations in voting intention are to be found beneath these headline figures: FSB members significantly more likely to vote Yes are: exporters to the EU (66.3%), employers of non-uk EU nationals (60.7%), importers from the EU (56.0%), members in Scotland (59.9%), London (55.4%), and Northern Ireland (54.2%), and female business owners (51.3%) 14. There are also regional differences within England in voting intention. FSB members significantly more likely to vote No are: those who voted No in the UK European Economic Community (EEC) membership referendum in 1975 (86.3%) 15, members in East Midlands (48.7%), Yorkshire and Humber (47.8%), and the West Midlands (47.0%), male FSB members (43.3%) and those who don t rely on exports (43.3%) 16. In the qualitative part of the research, FSB members expanded on their views regarding the Government s current negotiations relating to the UK-EU relationship. While FSB members expressed a desire to see reforms, they found it difficult to specify exactly what reforms are needed. This may be due to members feeling they lack the relevant information regarding the negotiations and the potential impact any reforms may have on their business. 11 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q5. Thinking specifically about your business(es) and the market it operates in, what impact would the following have on your business(es)? Base: FSB members (6,263) 12 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q5. Thinking specifically about your business(es) and the market it operates in, what impact would the following have on your business(es)? Base: FSB members (6,263) 13 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q6. Imagine that the referendum on whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union was held today. Based upon the information you know today, how would you vote? Base: FSB members (6,263) 14 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q6. Imagine that the referendum on whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union was held today. Based upon the information you know today, how would you vote? Base: FSB members (6,263), Scotland (571), NI (96), Rely on EU Exports (1,056), Rely on EU Imports (1,479), Employs EU nationals (772), Female (1,354), London (359) 15 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q6. Imagine that the referendum on whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union was held today. Based upon the information you know today, how would you vote?/ Q8.If you were eligible at the time, how did you vote in the UK European Economic Community membership referendum in 1975? Base: FSB members (6,263), Those who voted NO in 1975 (593) see figure BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q6. Imagine that the referendum on whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union was held today. Based upon the information you know today, how would you vote? Base: FSB members (6,263), Male business owners (4.887), don t rely on exports (4,863), East Midlands (347), Yorkshire (402), West Midlands (572) 8

9 1.4 There is a widespread desire for access to more neutral information about the EU FSB members cite their main sources of information about the EU as being TV / radio (71.9%) and press / printed media (57.6%) 17. As noted above, however, the online survey also showed that less than half of members (40.8%) 18 say that they feel informed about the forthcoming referendum from a business point of view. During the online discussion forums, it emerged on a very consistent basis that members are concerned that mainstream media sources are sometimes unreliable or biased. They are also concerned that easy to understand, balanced information on the EU in general, and the UK s membership of the EU in particular, is not widely available. FSB members therefore want a clear, unbiased and balanced communication of the facts surrounding the UK-EU relationship. This is both as it exists today, and as it may become depending on the range of potential outcomes of the referendum. 17 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 201; Q4. In general, who or what helps to inform your view on the EU? Please select all that applies. Base: FSB members (6,263) 18 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q3. How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the EU? Base: FSB members (6,263) NET informed: those who scored 4-5 on a 5 point scale where 5 is very well informed 9

10 A study of FSB members views on the UK s membership of the European Union 2. Understanding FSB members views on EU membership 2.1 The majority of FSB members state that they have formed a view on the UK s membership of the EU We asked FSB members whether they had formed a view on the UK s membership of the EU at this stage in the debate (June / July 2015). 78.0% stated that they had a view on EU membership, with 9.9% saying they were yet to form a view and 10.6% saying they didn t know. A very small proportion of members stated that they had no interest in EU matters (1.2%) 19. Those who rely on EU exports were more likely to have formed a view at this point than those who do not export ( I have a view : 88.5% versus 75.5%) 20. Male business owners were more likely to have formed a view than their female counterparts (80.2% versus 70.5% respectively) 21. Figure 1: BY COMPANY PROFILE: Which of the following best describes how you feel about the EU debate at this time? Which of the following best describes how you feel about the EU debate at this time? I have a view I am yet to form my view I do not know enough to comment I have no interest in European Union matters None of the above Of all respondents: 78.0% 9.9% 10.6% 1.2% 0.2% My business: I have a view I am yet to form my view I do not know enough to comment I have no interest in European Union matters None of the above Relies on EU exports 88.5% 6.6% 4.6% 0.1% 0.2% Does not export 75.5% 10.7% 12.1% 1.5% 0.2% Employs non-uk EU nationals Doesn t employ non- UK EU nationals Has a male business owner Has a female business owner 82.8% 9.0% 7.3% 0.7% 0.1% 77.7% 10.0% 11.0% 1.2% 0.2% 80.2% 9.2% 9.0% 1.4% 0.3% 70.5% 12.2% 16.4% 0.8% 0.2% Source: Q1. Which of the following best describes how you feel about the EU debate at this time? Base: FSB members (6,263), Rely on EU Exports (1,056), Rely on EU Imports (1,479), Male business owners (4,887), Female business owners (1,354), Employs non-uk EU nationals (772), Doesn t employ non-uk EU nationals (5,172) 19 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q1. Which of the following best describes how you feel about the European Union debate at this time? Base: FSB members (6,263) 20 Source: Q1. Which of the following best describes how you feel about the EU debate at this time? Base: Rely on EU Exports (1,056), DO not export (4,863) 21 Source: Q1. Which of the following best describes how you feel about the EU debate at this time? Base: Male business owners (4,887), Female business owners (1,354) 10

11 2.2 Views on the EU and the UK s membership are highly complex and not driven exclusively by business considerations The UK s membership of the EU means different things to different FSB members, depending on their personal circumstances, nationality, understanding of the history of the EU, and whether the business exports to or imports from other EU nations. Those taking part in the qualitative phase of research agreed that the EU is a complex, multi-layered entity influenced by: Personal, cultural and social identities Political preferences Economic factors The history of the Common Market The history of nations Trade relationships Business relationships with EU countries This complexity of the EU and its development makes it hard for FSB members to understand what the true impact of being a member of the EU is for the UK, its citizens and businesses. Many participants in both the Yes and No groups had only a vague idea as to what the EU really meant for the UK. The whole issue of the consequences of staying in versus coming out of the EU is complex and wrought with uncertainties. So much so that I don t think many members of the public have a good grasp of it. Voting intention: Yes, Information and communication, no employees, England, South East Participants in the online discussion forums also agreed that it was hard for small business owners to separate their personal view on EU membership from their business stance. Personal and business views are hard to separate, especially for people running small businesses. Voting intention: No, Wholesale and retail trade, 32 employees, England, Yorkshire and Humber 2.3 Mixed perceptions regarding the benefits of the UK s membership of the EU We asked FSB members to what extent they agreed or disagreed that the UK benefited from membership of the EU, on a range of levels spanning the UK economy as a whole to the individual personally. At the time of asking (June / July 2015), 32.9% of FSB members strongly agree that the UK economy benefited from the UK s membership of the EU. This increased to 50.5% when we included those who slightly agree BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for Base: FSB members (6,263) 11

12 A study of FSB members views on the UK s membership of the European Union The proportion of FSB members who strongly agree that EU membership is beneficial for their specific nation within the UK is slightly lower at 29.4%, rising to 46.7% when it includes those who slightly agree 23. Interestingly, FSB members are more likely to agree that membership of the EU is more beneficial for the UK economy than for their own business. 32.9% of FSB members strongly agree that the EU is beneficial for the UK economy (rising to 50.5% when including those who slightly agree ); compared to 20.9% of FSB members who strongly agree that the EU is beneficial for their business (rising to 34.9% when it including those who slightly agree 24 ). Figure The UK s 2: To membership what extent do of you the agree EU is or beneficial disagree with for... the following? The UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for The UK economy The nation The local area The business Me as an individual NET agree*: 50.5% 46.7% 40.1% 34.9% 38.8% Strongly agree Slightly gree Neither agree nor disagree Slightly disagree Strongly disagree Don t know/ Not Sure 32.9% 29.4% 22.8% 20.9% 23.3% 14.0% 17.3% 15.5% 17.6% 17.3% 22.1% 15.6% 9.8% 16.8% 11.3% 14.0% 13.3% 11.6% 12.0% 13.0% 21.4% 26.3% 26.3% 29.0% 31.2% 3.9% 3.1% 3.6% 2.4% 2.4% Source: BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for Base: FSB members (6,263). *Slightly/strongly agree The level of how informed an FSB member may feel does not impact their perception as to whether the UK s membership of the EU may be beneficial for their business. 41.9% of FSB members who think that the UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for their business feel informed, while 26.4% feel not informed about the forthcoming EU referendum 25. The same applies to those who do not think that the UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for their business, where 43.0% feel informed and 41.7% do not feel well informed about the forthcoming EU referendum BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for Base: FSB members (6,263) 24 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for Base: FSB members (6,263) 25 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the European Union is beneficial for /Q3.How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the European Union? Base: FSB members (6,263) 26 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the European Union is beneficial for /Q3.How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the European Union? Base: FSB members (6,263) 12

13 Figure 3: Perceived benefits of the UK s membership of the EU by level of how informed they feel about the EU referendum To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for my business All respondents How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the EU? From business point-of-view NET Not informed Neither informed nor uninformed NET Informed Don t know NET agree* that UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for my business Neither agree nor disagree that UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for my business NET disagree** that UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for my business Don t know if UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for my business 34.9% 26.4% 37.6% 41.9% 10.6% 22.1% 27.0% 27.1% 14.7% 39.9% 40.6% 41.7% 34.0% 43.0% 39.9% 2.4% 5.0% 1.3% 0.5% 9.6% Source: BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015 Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the EU Union is beneficial for /Q3. How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the EU Union? Base: FSB members (6,263). *Slightly/strongly agree **Slightly/strongly disagree. NET Not informed 2/1 not at all informed; NET Informed - 4/5 very well informed FSB members in the nations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) are more likely to agree that there is a benefit from EU membership than those in England. FSB members in England are more likely to believe that the UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for the UK economy rather than their business or themselves as an individual (49.0% vs. 33.3% and 37.6% respectively) 27. FSB members in Scotland and Wales in particular were significantly more likely to agree that there is a benefit in EU membership to the UK economy (net agree: 59.7 % and 54.8% respectively), their nation (61.1% and 52.1%), their local area (55.7% and 48.7%) and their business (45.0% and 40.9%). FSB members in Scotland are also significantly more likely to see the UK s membership of the EU as beneficial for them as individuals (47.5% vs. 39.8% in Wales and 37.6% in England) 28. FSB Members in Northern Ireland are also significantly more likely to agree that there is a benefit in EU membership for their local area than members in England (net agree: 9.4 percentage points higher). As will be discussed later in the report, there are significant regional variations across England. 27 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the European Union is beneficial for Base: FSB members (6,263), England (5,337), Scotland (571), NI (96), Wales (259) 28 Source: BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the European Union is beneficial for Base: FSB members (6,263), England (5,337), Scotland (571), NI (96), Wales (259) 13

14 A study of FSB members views on the UK s membership of the European Union Figure 4: BY NATION: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for The UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for: All respondents England FSB members in: Scotland Northern Ireland Wales NET agree*: the UK economy as a whole 50.5% 49.0% 59.7% 56.3% 54.8% my nation 46.7% 44.7% 61.1% 45.8% 52.1% my local area 40.1% 37.5% 55.7% 46.9% 48.7% my business 34.9% 33.3% 45.0% 37.5% 40.9% me as an individual 38.8% 37.6% 47.5% 43.8% 39.8% Source: BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the European Union is beneficial for Base: FSB members (6,263), England (5,337), Scotland (571), NI (96), Wales (259). *Slightly/strongly agree The FSB members quotes below, drawn directly from the online discussion forums, illustrate the motivations of members in the nations. In Scotland we need workers from other EU member states to carry out seasonal work, for example in farming of vegetable and fruit crops, and in tourism. These people work hard, contribute to and integrate in their communities, and pay taxes. Voting intention: Yes, Accommodation and food service activities, 15 employees, Scotland Living in Northern Ireland it is best that Britain remains in the EU - a oneisland structure leaves us open to a number of logistical issues, movement between borders etc. Voting intention: Yes, Business and real estate services, 7 employees, Northern Ireland [EU] Funding for parts of Wales has made them almost reliant on them! Would we have had the funding from the Welsh government I m not sure especially for the SMEs and particular parts of Wales. Voting intention: No, Manufacturing, 2 employees, Wales 14

15 Figure 5: BY COMPANY PROFILE: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for The UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for: the UK economy as a whole All respondents Relies on EU exports Relies on EU imports Employs non- UK EU nationals NET agree*: My business: Does not employ non- UK EU nationals Has a male business owner Has a female business owner 50.5% 64.5% 58.0% 61.9% 49.9% 49.2% 55.4% my nation 46.7% 61.7% 54.8% 60.8% 45.5% 45.4% 51.5% my local area 40.1% 56.9% 47.0% 53.3% 38.8% 38.9% 44.4% my business 34.9% 66.2% 51.5% 53.1% 32.9% 34.2% 37.7% me as an individual 38.8% 56.2% 45.9% 52.3% 37.8% 37.4% 44.0% Source: BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for Base: FSB members (6,263), Rely on EU Exports (1,056), Rely on EU Imports (1,479), Employs non-uk EU nationals (772), Doesn t employ non-uk EU nationals (5,172), Male business owners (4,887), Female business owners (1,354). *Slightly/ strongly agree When filtering responses in terms of business type, those who rely on the EU for trade in some form (exporting, importing, employing non-uk EU employees) are significantly more likely to agree that there is a benefit in the UK s membership of the EU, not only to the UK economy as a whole, but to their nation, their local area, their business and to themselves as individuals. Those FSB members who rely on exports to other EU countries are almost twice as likely as members in general to agree that the UK s membership of the EU has benefits for their business (31.3 percentage points higher) 29. Female FSB members are more likely to agree that there is a benefit in the EU membership than their male counterparts 30. However, the difference is not as strongly marked as for those who rely on the EU for trade. Drivers of perceptions regarding the benefits of the UK s EU membership The online discussion forums proved helpful in teasing out some of the specific drivers of opinion on how far the UK s membership of the EU is, or is not, beneficial for the UK and ultimately to the FSB members own businesses. Regardless of their voting intention, FSB members take into account a number of factors when making their assessment. These factors are not exclusively business-related: for many of these small business owners, the business and personal viewpoint are hard to separate in practice. 29 Source: BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s membership of the EU is beneficial for Base: FSB members (6,263), Rely on EU Exports (1,056) 30 Source: BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? The UK s me mbership of the EU is beneficial for Base: Male business owners (4,887), Female business owners (1,354) 15

16 A study of FSB members views on the UK s membership of the European Union As expected, the diverse types of businesses owned by FSB members meant that a vast array of experiences and opinions were discussed in the online discussion forums. The following topics stood out across all three voting intention groups as being the most frequently discussed. These are explored in more detail in section 3.2. Freedom of movement in general Employment of non-uk EU nationals Ease of trade / importing and exporting EU funding schemes EU regulation The online discussion forums revealed a further area of complexity whereby some FSB members openly acknowledge that what might be a positive factor for their own business could equally be a negative (or irrelevant) factor for another business and vice versa. I am leaning towards more staying within the EU but more for other business s sakes rather than my own. Voting intention: Undecided, Accommodation and food service activities, 9 employees, England, North West The first thing that comes to mind, specifically relating to my business, is that as far as I can understand, none of these EU issues really make any difference to my business. Probably going into greater detail would reveal something. Thinking about import and export companies, it must be so much easier to have blanket rules within the 28 countries for trading. If we were to leave the EU, just simple issues such as road transport through the countries, each with different regulations would be so time consuming and costly. Voting intention: Undecided, Wholesale and retail trade, 5 employees, Wales 2.4 Fewer than half of FSB members claim to feel informed about the forthcoming referendum Although, as we have seen in section 2.1, the majority of FSB members (78.0%) 31 claim to have firm views on the UK s membership of the EU, the online survey showed that a far smaller proportion (40.8%) feel informed about the forthcoming referendum from a business point of view. In comparison, 36.9% of FSB members feel that they are not informed from a business point of view. A slightly higher proportion of FSB members (47.2%) claim to feel informed from a personal point of view 32. Further to the above, the online discussion forums revealed that when discussing how informed they feel about the EU referendum, FSB members find it difficult to differentiate between personal and business viewpoints. 31 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q1. Which of the following best describes how you feel about the EU debate at this time? Base: FSB members (6,263) 32 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q3. How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the EU? Base: FSB members (6,263) NB: informed: score 4 or 5 where 5 is very well informed not informed : score 1 or 2 where 1 is not at all informed 16

17 How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum Figure on the 6: UK s How membership well informed do of you the feel EU? about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the EU? From the point of view of your business From a personal point of view NET informed*: 40.8% 47.2% 5 - Very well informed 19.2% 24.0% Not at all informed Don t know 21.6% 21.2% 23.2% 20.5% 17.6% 15.9% 19.4% 15.8% 1.0% 0.7% NET not informed**: 37.0% 31.7% Source: BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q3. How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the EU? Base: FSB members (6,263). *4/5 very well informed ** 2/1 not at all informed 17

18 A study of FSB members views on the UK s membership of the European Union FSB members in Northern Ireland are significantly more likely to state that they do not feel informed about the EU referendum. 51.0% of those in Northern Ireland say they do not feel informed from a business point of view compared with 36.9% of all FSB members 33. Figure 7: BY NATION: How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the EU? From a personal point of view, I feel From a business point of view, I feel NET informed* Neither informed nor uninformed NET not informed** All respondents England FSB members in: Scotland Northern Ireland Wales 47.2% 47.2% 45.9% 37.5% 52.9% 20.5% 20.0% 22.2% 21.9% 24.7% 31.6% 32.1% 31.0% 39.6% 22.4% Don t know 0.7% 0.7% 0.9% 1.0% 0.0% NET informed* Neither informed nor uninformed NET not informed** 40.8% 41.1% 39.4% 30.2% 43.2% 21.2% 20.7% 22.6% 18.8% 28.2% 36.9% 37.2% 36.4% 51.0% 28.2% Don t know 1.0% 1.0% 1.6% 0.0% 0.4% Source: BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q3. How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the EU Union? Base: FSB members (6,263), England (5,337), Scotland (571), NI (96), Wales (259). *4/5 very well informed ** 2/1 not at all informed Those who feel the most informed about the EU from a business point of view are those who currently rely on the European Single Market in some form those who rely on exporting to or importing from the EU, or employing non-uk EU nationals. 33 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q3. How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the European Union? Base: FSB members (6,263), England (5,337), Scotland (571), NI (96), Wales (259) 18

19 Figure 8: BY COMPANY PROFILE: How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the EU? From a business point of view, I feel NET informed* Neither informed nor uninformed NET not informed** All respondents Relies on EU exports Relies on EU imports Employs non- UK EU nationals My business: Does not employ non UK-EU nationals Has a male business owner Has a female business owner 50.5% 56.2% 44.7% 46.8% 40.1% 43.1% 32.7% 46.7% 18.8% 21.3% 20.2% 21.7% 21.0% 22.0% 40.1% 24.5% 33.5% 32.4% 37.2% 34.9% 44.3% Don t know 1.0% 0.6% 0.5% 0.6% 1.0% 1.0% 1.0% Source: BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q3. How well informed do you feel about the forthcoming referendum on the UK s membership of the EU? Base: FSB members (6,263), Rely on EU Exports (1,056), Rely on EU Imports (1,479), Male business owners (4,887), Female business owners (1,354), Employs non-uk EU nationals (772), Doesn t employ non-uk EU nationals (5,172) *4/5 very well informed ** 2/1 not at all informed The online discussion forums revealed two slightly different drivers of how FSB members feel about the level of information they have about the EU referendum at present. The majority of FSB members feel they have a lack of understanding of EU issues, and that there is a lack of information on these issues. Some FSB members believe that at this point in the debate, it is too early to be fully informed as much of the detail around potential scenarios and outcomes is unknown. This highlights the need for the right level of information provided at key points in the debate. Both of these points are discussed in more detail in section Sources of information currently used by FSB members to inform their view The majority of FSB members report that their view on the topic of the EU is largely informed by TV / radio (71.9%) followed by press / printed media (57.6%), digital media (40.8%), Government (32.2%), and the FSB or other business groups (31.3%) 34. Those in England and Wales are significantly more likely to claim that their opinions are formed by TV / radio, press / printed media, and Government than those in Scotland. FSB members in Scotland are more likely than the other nations to be influenced by social media (18.6% compared to 10.6% for England and 13.1% in Wales) 35. FSB members in England and Wales are significantly more likely to be influenced by work colleagues and peers than those in Northern Ireland (22.3% in England and 22.0% in Wales versus 13.5% in Northern Ireland) BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 201; Q4. In general, who or what helps to inform your view on the EU? Please select all that applies. Base: FSB members (6,263) 35 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 201; Q4. In general, who or what helps to inform your view on the EU? Please select all that applies. Base: FSB members (6,263), England (5,337), Scotland (571), NI (96), Wales (259) 36 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 201; Q4. In general, who or what helps to inform your view on the EU? Please select all that applies. Base: FSB members (6,263), England (5,337), Scotland (571), NI (96), Wales (259) 19

20 A study of FSB members views on the UK s membership of the European Union Figure 9: BY NATION: In general, who or what helps to inform your view on the EU? All respondents England FSB members in: Scotland Northern Ireland Wales TV, radio 71.9% 72.7% 67.3% 67.7% 70.3% Press/printed media 57.6% 58.2% 52.5% 53.1% 59.1% Digital media 40.8% 40.5% 41.9% 44.8% 40.5% Government 32.2% 33.1% 26.4% 28.1% 29.7% The FSB/other business groups 31.3% 31.2% 32.2% 28.1% 32.8% Family/friends 23.7% 23.9% 21.4% 21.9% 24.7% Work colleagues/ peers Social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ etc.) 21.8% 22.3% 18.7% 13.5% 22.0% 11.6% 10.6% 18.6% 13.5% 13.1% Other 9.3% 9.4% 8.4% 4.2% 10.8% I m not really interested in the European Union 1.2% 1.1% 1.1% 2.1% 1.9% Source: BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 201; Q4. In general, who or what helps to inform your view on the EU Union? Please select all that applies. Base: FSB members (6,263), England (5,337), Scotland (571), NI (96), Wales (259) 20

21 When looking at the information sources used by voting intention, the order is largely the same. There are however some differences across the voting intentions. Those intending to vote Yes are significantly more likely to be using digital, social media and advice from peers. While those intending to vote No are more likely to be influenced by TV, radio and printed media. Those who are Undecided are significantly more likely to be influenced by the FSB and other business groups. Figure 10: BY FSB MEMBERS VOTING INTENTION: In general, who or what helps to inform your view on the EU? All respondents Voting intention if the referendum was held today: Yes No Undecided TV, radio 71.9% 75.5% 67.2% 75.4% Press/printed media 57.6% 57.1% 59.7% 53.3% Digital media 40.8% 44.5% 38.7% 33.6% Government 32.2% 31.5% 32.5% 34.6% The FSB/other business groups 31.3% 33.0% 28.0% 37.6% Family/friends 23.7% 25.1% 22.5% 21.7% Work colleagues/peers 21.8% 23.5% 21.0% 18.6% Social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ etc.) 11.6% 13.0% 10.7% 8.4% Other 9.3% 9.2% 10.7% 3.8% I m not really interested in the European Union 1.2% 0.2% 1.9% 1.3% Source: BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 201; Q4. In general, who or what helps to inform your view on the EU? Please select all that applies. Base: FSB members (6,263), Intending to vote Yes (2955), Intending to vote No (2,556), Undecided (663) The topic of information sources was explored in more detail during the online discussion forums. While mainstream media is held in a reasonably high regard as a source of information, all three discussion groups felt that, by and large, there was an absence of neutral information available. Those intending to vote Yes felt that media coverage of the debate was biased by the topic of immigration and extremist political views. Some said that they consulted with clients and colleagues in EU countries to seek out independent advice and opinion. Those intending to vote No conversely felt that the UK media were too liberal, pro-european and big-business orientated. They also sought out information from alternative sources including family, friends and social media. They put the onus on themselves to seek out information and use their own judgement to decide what is reliable. Those who are Undecided generally felt that there was a real absence of information. They called for neutral and independent facts which they can take time to review in order to make an informed decision. 21

22 A study of FSB members views on the UK s membership of the European Union It is difficult to get an unbiased view of the EU as the media tends to lean either way, according to their political bias. I think people lack a clear understanding of the how the EU works. Voting intention: Yes, Business and real estate services, no employees, Wales I don t think anyone can claim to know enough about the EU and the implications of staying in or leaving. These issues are just so big and interrelated that it s virtually impossible, and politicians are certainly not a good source of unbiased information! Each side will use arguments and statistics that favour their point of view and the whole debate becomes louder and louder until everything gets drowned out. Voting intention: No, Wholesale and retail trade, 32 employees, England, Yorkshire and Humber Getting factually correct information is an extremely difficult task these days. If anyone were to rely solely on the mainstream media in the UK, their view is likely to be tainted. The difficulty most people will have is finding a trustworthy, unbiased source of information. Analysis of facts by the various sources tends to be biased toward the particular view of whoever is putting forward that view. Voting intention: Undecided, Business and real estate services, 2 employees, Scotland 22

23 3. Possible business impact of the EU referendum 3.1 Overview Overall, 41.3% of FSB members expect a UK withdrawal from the EU to have a negative impact on their business. This is compared to 33.6% who expect that a UK withdrawal from the EU would have no impact and 17.2% who expect a positive impact on their business 37. When asked about remaining in the EU, over a third (37.7%) believe that remaining in the EU would have no impact on their business, with 35.4% expecting a positive impact and 20.3% expecting it would have a negative impact on their business 38. What impact would the following have on your business(es)? Figure 11: What impact would the following have on your business? Withdrawl from the EU Remaining in the EU NET positive impact*: 17.2% 35.4% Very positive impact Somewhat positive impact No impact Somewhat negative impact 6.7% 10.5% 33.6% 22.9% 16.2% 19.2% 37.7% Very negative impact I don t know enough to comment NET negative impact**: 13.3% 18.4% 7.1% 7.9% 6.6% 41.3% 20.3% Source: BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q5. Thinking specifically about your business(es) and the market it operates in, what impact would the following have on your business(es)? Base: FSB members (6,263) *Very/somewhat positive impact ** Very/somewhat negative impact 37 BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q5. Thinking specifically about your business(es) and the market it operates in, what impact would the following have on your business(es)? Base: FSB members (6,263) 38 Source: BV021 EU Membership, 15th June - 20th July 2015; Q5. Thinking specifically about your business(es) and the market it operates in, what impact would the following have on your business(es)? Base: FSB members (6,263) 23

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