Support for continued EU membership

By ICAS Editorial team

9 April 2015

A survey of CAs in business reveals support for Britain's continued membership of the European Union.

With EU membership a key campaigning topic in the UK General Election, an ICAS survey of members in business finds a majority in favour of the UK remaining within the EU.   

Of these, 20% of respondents supported further integration, 31% wished to see a renegotiated relationship, and 32% preferred no change in the current arrangements.  The study found that 11% of respondents wanted to leave the EU, with 6% undecided. 

Sixty-five per cent of respondents said that the EU yields benefits for their business,  and almost half of these said the benefits were significant.   

Only 3% of respondents said the EU imposes significant burdens on their business, however 15% stated that membership resulted in some burdens. There was a sense that the EU imposes more of a management and administrative burden as a result of rules and regulations.  

The key benefits of EU membership were seen as: access to a market of more than 500 million people; a single market without tariffs and customs duties; uniformity of standards and legislation throughout the EU (although nearly 20% saw this as imposing "some" or "significant" burdens); rules preventing discrimination and ensuring free trade and movement of capital and people; and the EU's strength as a trading bloc in negotiating with other groups and nations. EU grants and subsidies were seen as less important than the foregoing benefits with only 27% of respondents viewing these as a benefit.  

The major burdens associated with EU membership were: EU employment law; regulations specific to the respondent's industry; VAT rules (although more than 22% saw these as a benefit of membership); EU environmental requirements; and pensions rules. In most cases, even those aspects rated as net burdens in the survey were seen as benefits by a significant minority of respondents. No single aspect of EU membership was seen as a "significant" burden or barrier by more than 9% of respondents.  

The ICAS results were published alongside analysis detailing the potential impacts for the UK should a majority of voters support withdrawal in any future referendum on EU membership.  

David Wood, ICAS Executive Director, Technical Policy said: "The level of support for staying in the EU was significant – although there were clear differences of opinion as to whether this should be in a more integrated EU, as part of a renegotiated relationship or with the status quo."

"A striking message from the analysis paper prepared by our expert committees was that even if the UK left the EU, it would be severely restricted in its ability to do things differently if it wanted to continue to access the EU's single market and be internationally competitive."  

The survey   

A total of 216 ICAS members in industry and commerce across the UK responded to the survey (response rate - 3%) in March 2015.  Whilst around 46% of respondents were from larger companies (with over 1,000 employees), they were mostly headquartered in the UK  and spread across a range of different sectors.  In analysing the results, it should be noted that between 38% and 41% of respondents' businesses either did not export goods to the EU or did not import goods from the EU.

More of the survey results are set out in our Technical Knowledge section.


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