Government Risks Defeat Unless True Cost of Brexit Is Made Clear, New Survey Reveals

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Sheffield will host the launch of a new democratic project to ‘open up’ the EU referendum next week [1], as campaigners seek to move the referendum debate ‘away from personalities and to policies instead’.

Yorkshire businesses want to stay in the EU, but a significant proportion admit they don’t know which will cost more – staying in, or pulling out.

If Yorkshire business people are to be persuaded to vote “in” in the upcoming EU referendum, then the government needs to make clear the financial benefits of doing so or risk defeat, according to the results of a new survey conducted by leading corporate law firm, Shulmans LLP.

Almost 150 individual Yorkshire businesses were quizzed by the firm’s Head of Corporate, Andrew Bradley, who said that of all the issues surrounding the referendum, hard facts with regard to the cost of pulling out – or staying in – were still lacking, and both camps needed to address this matter with urgency.

When asked to agree or disagree with the statement “the cost of the proposed Brexit will be significantly more than staying in” nearly 35% of businesses admitted they didn’t know.  Almost 41% said pulling out would cost more than staying in, and nearly 25% disagreed, saying it wouldn’t.

This is despite Boris Johnson’s recent visit to Leeds, when he said that Yorkshire would benefit if Britain exited the EU, singling out the financial burden on small businesses imposed by union membership.

Head of Corporate, Andrew Bradley said:

This is an interesting contrast to our blunt ‘in, or out’ question, when just over 59% said in and almost 29% said out,” said Andrew.  “It seems when you dig a little deeper, businesses feel under-informed regarding the financials.  Whether, of course, that influences the votes in June remains to be seen.

When asked to agree or disagree with the statement “if we pull out of the EU, it will have an adverse effect on British businesses”, nearly 55% of respondents agreed that it would, but 45% either disagreed or didn’t know.  Only 19% felt Brexit would be the best option for Yorkshire businesses, with 57% disagreeing and 24% saying they didn’t know either way.

Andrew, who is well-known throughout the region as an effective and experienced corporate finance and banking lawyer, also posed the question “what difference will David Cameron’s recent deal with the EU make to Britain?”  Nearly 58% said it would make no difference at all, and 24% didn’t know.  Only 19% were supportive of the prime minister, saying the deal struck would significantly improve Britain’s position in Europe.

“It seems lack of genuine hard facts is the major bugbear for many of our clients,” explained Andrew.  “Questions about the Brexit economy all remain largely unanswered.

“One potential explanation is that people don’t actually know what the business environment would look like should we come out of the EU,” he suggested. “Overall our survey shows that Yorkshire businesses are pro-EU, but since nobody actually knows what a post-Brexit landscape looks like, it may be that businesses simply feel safer on familiar ground.  Only time will tell.”