The majority of members of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) are in favour of staying in the EU in the upcoming referendum, a survey has revealed. The group, which is the largest business lobbying organisation in the UK, has elected to remain neutral in the debate about whether to leave or remain in the EU, but did conduct a survey of its members in which roughly 80% of respondents expressed a preference for remaining part of the union.
The survey involved the questioning of 773 companies, which was carried out by polling specialists ComRes. The survey found that 80% of respondents were in favour of staying in the EU and 15% were unsure about whether they would prefer to leave or remain, leaving just 5% in favour of an exit. Bigger companies, the survey showed, were more likely to favour the UK retaining its EU membership than smaller and medium-sized companies.
CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said that while the organisation would continue to take no official stance either supporting or opposing an EU exit, it would also draw up the economic case for staying in the EU. Fairbairn said that “it is not [the CBI's] place to tell people how to vote,” but also recognised that “the message from our members is resounding – most want the UK to stay in the EU because it is better for their business, jobs and prosperity.”
Fairbairn went on to say: “Walking away makes little economic sense and risks throwing away the many benefits we gain from being part of the EU.”
Even so, she said the CBI also recognises that it does have members who do wish to leave the EU, and as such the organisation “will continue to respect and reflect their views and campaign for EU reform to get a better deal for all businesses.”
The CBI survey comes soon after the head of another major British business organisation, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) stepped down following a row about the referendum. Like the CBI, the BCC has elected to remain neutral and not campaign for the country to either remain in the EU or leave. Despite this, former director general John Longworth spoke at the BCC conference in favour of leaving, a move which the BCC said was likely to create confusion about the organisation’s non-partisan stance.
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of Vote Leave, welcomed the CBI’s continued neutrality. He said that the CBI had “seen sense” in deciding not to campaign in the referendum. However, he was critical of the survey and its outcome, saying that the poll had been skewed towards larger businesses and that the CBI “consistently misrepresented the views of business on the issue, acting as little more than the Voice of Brussels.”