Membership of EU good for British business, CIMA poll says


By Samantha White

With a referendum on whether Britain should remain a member of the European Union expected to take place by the end of 2017, a poll of UK members of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants found that 76% are in favour of Britain staying in the EU.

The UK was one of the founding members of the EU at its inception in 1992, and prior to that was a member of the organisation’s forerunner, the European Economic Community (EEC), which was created to foster economic co-operation among member states. However, Britain has not entered into a currency union with other members.

Membership of the EU was a prominent campaign issue in the run-up to the 2015 general election. Eurosceptics think that the vision of ever-closer union among member states is leading to reduced national sovereignty.

The planned referendum would fulfil an election campaign pledge made by the Conservative government led by Prime Minister David Cameron. The government tabled its EU referendum bill in parliament in June, but the date of the vote is yet to be set.

Before the vote takes place, Cameron has said that he wants to “renegotiat[e] the UK’s relationship with the European Union.” In a speech at the European Council Summit in June, he mentioned issues such as Britain’s sovereignty, the prevailing balance between the interests of euro-zone members and countries that have not adopted the single currency, and the eligibility of workers from other EU countries for welfare payments in Britain.  

However, in May, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) called on business leaders to speak out in favour of remaining within a reformed EU, citing benefits to UK companies such as access to the EU single market of 500 million customers as well as talent from throughout the region, together with a stronger position in trade negotiations.

CIMA’s survey of 1,100 UK management accountants shows that 76% want the UK to retain EU membership, and 63% said they wanted to stay even if the prime minister fails to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU.

Eighty per cent of respondents believe that EU membership is good for British business in general. With regard to the impact on their own organisation, 51% said that leaving the EU would have a negative impact, and just 7% thought that a Brexit would have a positive effect.

While membership of the EU gained the support of the majority of respondents, that support did not extend to the possibility of Britain adopting the euro, with just 4% citing joining the single currency as a priority.

Potential reforms to Britain’s relationship with the EU

Respondents were asked to select the three most important reforms they felt the UK should push for when renegotiating the terms of membership:

 1. Ability to restrict benefits (welfare payments) to EU migrants  45%
 2. Ability for the UK to block EU legislation  41%
 3. Cutting down on red tape  38%
 4. Repatriation of powers (such as employment legislation, etc.)  33%
 5. Increased EU transparency  31%

Twenty-one per cent of respondents wished to see protection for the city of London financial markets from EU legislation. Twelve per cent wanted the UK to push for tax harmonisation, and the same percentage wanted reforms to be made to employment regulations. Just 5% of those polled wanted to see changes to corporate regulations.

The CIMA survey found that support for EU membership was consistent across organisations of all sizes and remained so regardless of the level of business the organisation represented did with other EU countries. Thirty-three per cent of those polled work for organisations that had more than a quarter of their business involving other member states, and 54% said they had not seen an increase in the level of business conducted with other EU nations in recent years.

Samantha White (swhite@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.