Skip To The Main Content
17 September 2015

The first comprehensive study of FSB members' views on the UK's membership of the EU

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is today (Thursday) publishing a comprehensive study into current small businesses' opinion on the forthcoming referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union (EU). It is the first time the FSB has carried out such an extensive piece of research on this subject, using both quantitative and qualitative data, receiving responses from 6,263 of its members.

The research acts as a temperature check on what FSB members currently think about the UK's membership of the EU, and how a vote to leave or remain in the EU is perceived to impact them and their businesses. The in-depth study examines current FSB member voting intentions alongside small businesses' views on EU reform, and provides a unique insight into regional and national voting preferences.

 Mike Cherry, FSB Policy Director, said:

 "The study attempts to understand current attitudes towards EU membership among our members. This research is a vital starting point in outlining the key issues and areas of concern for small businesses in the EU referendum debate. Regardless of what a firm's current position is, there is a shared message that small businesses feel they lack clear, impartial information on which to form their views.

"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."

The FSB commissioned independent research agency Verve to conduct the study in a two staged quantitative and qualitative approach. Between June and July of this year, 6,263 FSB members completed an online survey. This was followed by a cross section of 123 members participating in a 12-day online discussion forum. The forum participants were carefully chosen to ensure a balanced and representative sample from the varying nations, regions, business types and voting preferences within the FSB membership.

 Rebecca Stamp, Verve Director of Client Services, said:

"This unique report is based on research that is both robust and representative. We were particularly impressed with the level of FSB member engagement, receiving 6,263 survey responses and over 1,300 individual comments in the online discussion forum. This dual research approach allowed us to explore in detail the complex and sometimes emotive issues at the heart of what FSB members feel about the European Union."

 Key findings from the research:

To the question: "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?"
- 47.0% of members surveyed said they would vote ‘Yes', the UK should remain a member of the EU"
- 40.9% of members surveyed said they would vote ‘No', the UK should NOT remain a member of the EU"
- 10.7% of members surveyed said they were undecided on how to vote

 Who is most likely to vote ‘Yes'
- Exporters to the EU: 66.3% would vote ‘Yes'
- Employers of Non-UK EU nationals: 60.7% would vote ‘Yes'
- FSB members in Scotland: 59.9% would vote ‘Yes'
- Importers from the EU: 56.0% would vote ‘Yes'
- FSB members in London: 55.4% would vote ‘Yes'
- FSB members in Northern Ireland: 54.2% would vote ‘Yes'
- Female business owners: 51.3% would vote ‘Yes'
- FSB members in the North East: 51.3% would vote ‘Yes'

 Who is most likely to vote ‘No'
- 86.3% of those who voted ‘No' in the 1975 referendum would still vote ‘No'
- FSB members in the East Midlands: 48.7% would vote ‘No'
- FSB members in Yorkshire and the Humber: 47.8% would vote ‘No'
- FSB members in West Midlands: 47.0% would vote ‘No'

 Where the vote is currently close or undecided
- FSB members in England: 45.1% would vote ‘Yes' and 43.1% would vote ‘No'
- Male business owners: 45.8% would vote ‘Yes' and 43.3% would vote ‘No'
- Female business owners are more likely to be undecided with 14.5% yet to decide how they would vote

 Among members who would currently vote for the UK to remain a member of the EU, the most popular outcome was the transfer of EU powers back to UK
- 34.7% of the ‘Yes' vote would like to see powers transferred back to the UK
- 25.8% of the ‘Yes' vote would like the EU to remain in its current form
- 21.4% say they would like to see other reforms
- 12.9% would like to see further integration with the EU

 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
- 42.7% of the ‘No 'vote would like the UK to withdraw from the EU and concentrate on strengthening its trade links with the rest of the world
- 29.1% of the ‘No' vote would like the UK to withdraw from the EU and negotiate individual trade and other agreements with the EU and individual member states
- 22.1% of the ‘No' vote would like the UK to withdraw from the EU but remain in the European Economic Area

 FSB members' opinion and understanding of the EU
- 78.0% of FSB members surveyed have a view on the UK's membership of the EU
- 40.8%* of FSB members surveyed feel ‘informed' about the forthcoming referendum from a business point of view
- 37.0%** of members surveyed do not feel ‘informed' about the forthcoming referendum from a business point of view
- 19.2% of FSB members surveyed feel ‘very well informed' about the EU referendum from a business point of view

 * This figure combines those who scored 4 or 5 on a 5 point scale where 5 is very well informed and 1 is not at all informed
** This figure combines those who scored 1 or 2 on a 5 point scale where 5 is very well informed and 1 is not at all informed

 FSB members' opinions on whether the EU is beneficial to both the economy and their businesses
- 50.5%* see the EU as beneficial for the UK economy
- 34.4%** do not see the EU as beneficial for the UK economy
- 40.6%** do not see the EU as beneficial for their business
- 34.9%* see the EU as beneficial for their business

 * These figures combine those who said they strongly or slightly agree that the UK's membership of the EU is beneficial for the UK economy or their business
** These figures combine those who said they strongly or slightly disagree that the UK's membership of the EU is beneficial for the UK economy or their business

 FSB members' opinions on the potential impact of the UK leaving/staying in the EU

 On leaving:
- 41.3%* felt that leaving the EU would have a negative impact on their business
- 33.6% felt that leaving the EU would have no impact on their business
- 17.2%** felt that leaving the EU would have a positive impact on their business

 On remaining:
- 37.7% felt that remaining in the EU would have no impact on their business
- 35.4% ** felt that remaining in the EU would have a positive impact on their business
- 20.3% * felt that remaining in the EU would have a negative impact on their business

 * These figures combine those who said that withdrawing /remaining in the EU would have a very/somewhat negative impact on their business
** These figures combine those who said that withdrawing /remaining in the EU would have a very/somewhat positive impact on their business