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UK SMEs split over whether to stay in EU

If we had a referendum on the EU right now, most small businesses owners would vote to stay in but it's a close result.

The latest poll by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has found that 47% of FSB members would vote "yes" if asked to vote on whether the UK should remain a member of the EU at the current time. However, 41% would vote "no" and 11% said they were undecided.

The FSB commissioned independent research agency Verve to conduct the study in a two-staged quantitative and qualitative approach. Over 6,000 FSB members completed an online survey and a representative sample of 123 members then took part in a 12-day online discussion forum.

Unsurprisingly, crucial differences have emerged between the "yes" camp and the "no" camp. The survey found that key groups of FSB members were more likely to vote "yes". These included: exporters (66% would vote "yes"), employers of non-UK EU nationals (61%); Scottish members (60%); and female business owners (51%).

Meanwhile, the groups that were more likely to vote "no" included 86% of those who voted "no" in the 1975 referendum. The results are closest in England where 45% would currently vote "yes" and 43% would vote "no".

When asked about the impact of leaving the EU, 41% of respondents said it would have a negative impact on their business, 34% said it would have no impact and 17% said it would have a positive effect.

Of those respondents that want the UK to stay in the EU, most wanted powers to be transferred back to the UK. Among FSB members who would vote for the UK to leave the EU, the most popular outcome was improving trade links with rest of the world.

Mike Cherry, FSB Policy Director, said: 

"This is only the beginning of our work to support our members throughout this complex debate. Our role will be to ensure the small business voice is heard in the discussion, and that our members have all the information they need to make a decision which is right for them and their business."

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