The majority of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are fully behind the UK remaining in the European Union (EU).
According to a joint study by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and YouGov, eight out of ten SMEs think its vital in order to maintain jobs and growth.
Around 400 firms representing over 1.5 million employees took part in the survey, with 78 per cent responding in favour of staying in the EU.
In contrast, 11 per cent of SMEs said they would prefer the UK to opt out.
John Cridland, CBI director-general, said: “Firms want what is best for jobs and growth, and there is genuine concern that an exit would hit business investment and access to the world’s largest trading bloc.”
He added that the results sent out a “clear message” and that although some businesses do have “serious concerns” about the EU, they ultimately want the UK “inside the tent, winning the argument for reform”.
The CBI said that SMEs feel the positives of membership outweigh the negatives – despite the burden of some regulations and occasional frustrations.
It also revealed firms do want to see the relationship reformed somewhat, with 39 per cent of SMEs calling on EU rules to be applied evenly across all member states. A further 46 per cent also want an end to “gold-plating” of EU legislation.
In terms of the negatives of potentially opting out of membership, 75 per cent of respondents thought it would impact on the overall level of direct investment in the UK from overseas, while 86 per cent believe that leaving the EU would have a detrimental influence on UK SMEs’ access to EU markets.
However, recent research by the American Express/CFO Research Global Business and Spending Monitor revealed that SMEs and UK businesses as a whole weren’t fully reliant on the EU for overseas growth.
According to the study, India and China are the two top countries that UK businesses are most likely to target for international expansion opportunities.