Majority of North East businesses back remaining in EU

Picture: Union flag flutters next to the EU flag/Toby Melville/PA Wire/Press Association Images.
Picture: Union flag flutters next to the EU flag/Toby Melville/PA Wire/Press Association Images.

The majority of North East businesses are backing remaining in the European Union (EU).

A survey by the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), has found that the majority of the region’s businesses wish to remain in the EU.

From the businesses surveyed, 63 per cent said they plan on voting to remain in the EU.

This is a slight increase compared to NECC’s most recent survey in September last year.

Those planning to vote to leave the EU stands at 29.3 per cent, with 7.6 per cent still to make a decision.

This comes as the Prime Minister, David Cameron has set a referendum date of June 23.

However, 53.6 per cent of respondents said their voting decision is unlikely to change regardless of potential reforms.

NECC head of policy and campaigns Jonathan Walker said: “These results show a continued desire among North East businesses to remain within the EU.

“While there is not a uniform business view many of our members see significant risks from a possible exit.

“Our priority this year is to further strengthen the region’s profile domestically by making North East England a recognised player on the global stage and the EU referendum throws this issue into sharper focus.

“We recognise the huge benefits continued membership brings to the region, but also the frustrations many businesses feel when dealing with European regulations.

“Nevertheless, as a business membership organisation we have a duty to listen to our members and make the case for both membership and reform of the EU.”

Forty-four per cent of those surveyed said they were exporters to countries within the European Union.

Richard Swart, managing director of the Berger Group (Europe), welcomed the survey results.

Mr Stewart said: “It is essential for us in the North East and for the country as a whole to maintain and strengthen our links with the EU.

“Despite claims to the contrary by EU sceptics, the EU single market remains our most important market and will be for generations to come.

“Should we exit, we have no idea the damage that could be caused across all sectors of society in the UK.

“The North East benefits greatly from EU funding and we must not jeopardise this.

“These results show businesses are up to the challenge of making Europe work for us.

“We need to remember that major trade nations, including China, the United States and India, all wish us to remain part of a trading block of the EU and have stated clearly they do not wish to renegotiate with the UK as a single country.”

Ken Dunbar, Chief Executive of the Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID), said: “I think it’s vitally important for the UK and the North East region that it remains part of Europe, in the same way as I felt it was vitally important that the UK remained together, when there was a threat of Scottish independence.

“Together we are stronger and are better able to remove the barriers to trade as well as tackle some of our greatest global challenges.

“That said, I have always felt that Britain needs to work harder at being a more integrated partner in Europe and that means more high street brands across Europe and vice versa. It also requires better skills; linguistic skills in Britain are a much bigger barrier to the UK integrating with other countries in Europe, than they are for other European countries integrating with the UK.

“That requires more effort and commitment on our part.

“The free flow of labour, goods and capital across Europe has made the UK a more interesting, prosperous and more culturally diverse place to live, study, work and play. Long may it continue.”

MPs are set to debate to secure the referendum date of June 23.

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