Below is the Business for Britain Bulletin sent out this morning.
Back in the summer, various people including Matthew Elliott, some MPs, and some businessmen, including Stuart Wheeler, asked me to help get a new campaign off the ground that could fight the ‘leave’ side of the referendum.
We need a campaign aimed far beyond the fraction of the population that already supports UKIP. I have yet to meet anybody, whether a UKIP supporter or not (including Nigel Farage), who disagrees. This campaign will go public shortly.
The BfB bulletin clarifies some of this.
The Times leader today is also on this subject.
Before the summer recess, the EU Commission published the Five Presidents Report, their plan for another Treaty transferring many more powers to the EU. The EU has been at the forefront of the political agenda after recess. On the Commons’ first day back, MPs voted for a series of amendments to the EU Referendum Bill, allowing for a purdah period and changing the question, both of which will ensure the process is now fairer. The Conservative Party has also in recent days announced that it will remain neutral during the referendum campaign and will not give money or data to the ‘IN’ campaign. A series of business polls have revealed that business is divided about whether to leave the EU and large majorities want Britain to regain the power to make our own trade deals. As you all know, in light of the announcement that there would be no Treaty change in the forthcoming referendum, BfB’s Board decided in July that we would help create the campaign for Britain to leave the EU. This campaign will launch soon.
Please see below for a more detailed update on what we have been up to over the past month.
New polling shows business split on EU membership
There have been three significant recent attempts to measure business opinion on the EU:
1) Business for Britain (August 2015). This was a telephone poll of 601 businesses by Perspective Research Services. It was weighted by the respondents’ number of employees, region, and industry sector in order to give a representative sample of British businesses. It found that by more than two-to-one (41% to 20%) SMEs believe that the EU is harming rather than helping their business. A majority (54%) would also like to see the EU develop into a less integrated free-trade area, with only a quarter backing further integration. 74% of businesses said that Britain should regain the power to make our own trade deals. Coverage of the poll results featured across the media (above).
2) The Federation of Small Businesses survey (June-July 2015). This was an online survey of FSB members which received 6,263 responses from FSB members who chose to participate. Just over 40% of respondents said that they would vote to leave the EU, compared to 47% who would opt to remain. It was weighted to reflect the regional profile of FSB members, but not by the number of persons the respondent employed. 17% of respondents relied on exports to the EU. This was unrepresentative of British companies, of which only 5% export to the EU.
3) The British Chambers of Commerce survey (August 2015): This was a survey of 2,000 ‘senior businesspeople’ who choose to respond to the British Chambers of Commerce by email. Although the results were weighted geographically, half of respondents exported goods to the EU. This survey was wholly unrepresentative of British companies, since only 5% export goods and services to the EU. Nor was the survey weighted by the number of persons employed by the respondent.
Only BfB’s is a proper poll that is properly weighted to reflect ONS statistics on the profile of British business. The other two are surveys that are not weighted to reflect these statistics and have other significant flaws. This is important. The CBI routinely distorted the debate over the euro by manipulating their own membership surveys. After this was exposed in 1999 the CBI had to admit its membership was divided and they withdrew from the campaign in January 2000.
Polls have consistently shown for over a decade that about 70% of businesses reject the rationale for both the Customs Union and the Single Market and want Britain to regain the power to make our own trade deals, which is not part of Cameron’s renegotiation effort (see ICM, April 2004 and October 2006).
Reacting to this development, Conservatives for Britain Co-Chairman Steve Baker MP said: “I am delighted the Prime Minister and the Party Board have decided that Conservative Campaign Headquarters, its data and funds will remain neutral in the forthcoming referendum. There is a range of views within the Party about the EU, with many members waiting to see the deal before choosing how to campaign.”
Business figures speak out on EU withdrawal
A number of senior business figures have spoken out in recent weeks, expressing their views on a potential British withdrawal from the European Union:
“Our position in terms of competitiveness is driven by not only the situation in Europe in terms of whether we are in or out of the EU but more importantly the commitment of the people we have in the North East, the supply chain we have in the UK.” – Nissan Europe chairman Paul Willcox (Daily Telegraph, 3 September 2015)
BCC Director General John Longworth said the business network did not rule out calling for a British exit – or Brexit – from the EU should Cameron fail to get EU countries to agree to British businesses’ demands. “The European Union is getting further away from us. The single market was conceived for German industries and French farmers,” the BCC’s director general said (La Figaro, 7 September 2015)
“I voted for a free trade area in 1975. That’s what we should be [in]. It is absolutely crazy we are in there. I will be at the forefront of the ‘out’ campaign” – Peter Hargreaves, co-founder of Hargreaves Lansdown (Sunday Times, 13 September 2015)
“I don’t think in that event there would not be a trade agreement with what was left of the EU. We’re a very, very big market for European products, goods and services, and it would be unthinkable to us as a corporation that no such trade agreement would ultimately be negotiated if this country chose to leave.” – Chairman and Managing Director of Vauxhall, Tim Tozer (Daily Telegraph, 15 September 2015)
“Regardless (of the outcome), we think that the UK is a good place for investment.” – Board member of Bentley, Kevin Rose (Reuters, 16 September 2015)
“I’ve had lots of questions in my time in a way of why aren’t you opening up a plant somewhere else… I said guys are you kidding me? This is so truly British, that it belongs to Britain and it is also part of our success story that we are from Britain.” – CEO of Rolls Royce, Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes (Reuters, 16 September 2015)
“We have plants in Luton and Ellesmere port. We will not turn our back on England… We would continue to find ways to invest.” Chief Executive of Opel, Karl-Thomas Neumann (Reuters, 16 September 2015)
EU planning further transfers of power to Brussels
The EU has published its blueprint for its next big Treaty change, which will transfer even more powers to Brussels. In their ‘Five Presidents’ Report’ (right), the leaders of the EU state that they are looking at the possibility of introducing a new Treaty after 2017 in order to fix the euro’s problems.
This is worrying, as these plans will leave Britain as a permanent second-class member state, subject to EU law but condemned to be constantly outvoted in the EU’s institutions. The French Government has already come out in support of some of the report’s ideas. With Commission President Jean Claude Juncker saying he wants a ‘EU Army’ introduced, and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble this week advocating EU-wide minimum taxation rates, it is clear that the EU is going to be trying to take even more control over the coming years.
Immigration and the referendum
There is some confusion about the immigration issue and the referendum. There is no doubt that immigration tops the polls as the No. 1 issue. Contra some pundits, this is not a left/right issue. People across the political spectrum and demographic groups are very worried about Britain not having control of immigration policy. This is bound to get worse. For example, the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights has given the ECJ the power to judge how the UK implements the crucial 1951 UN Refugee Convention. This is another big limitation on Britain’s ability to adapt to the huge migration underway. David Cameron originally promised to get an opt-out from the Charter but this has been dropped.
However, for a crucial group of voters, roughly 20-25%, their attitude is – ‘we don’t like the EU, we would like to leave the EU, but we are very worried about the effects on jobs and living standards’. These people are also deeply worried about immigration. However, many of them will not vote to leave unless their fears about living standards are neutralised. If they are neutralised, then they will vote to leave. This does not mean ‘they don’t care about immigration’. They do care. But they care more about their own jobs.
The Business for Britain Board voted unanimously in July to affiliate to this campaign and throw our resources behind it. New offices are being set up. The campaign, along with a new version of the BfB EU Briefing (above), will launch shortly.
This requires an unprecedented organisation. We need to create something that can scale from a handful of people to hundreds of staff and thousands of volunteers quickly. It needs a professional media operation and a combination of old-school grassroots and cutting-edge technology. We will make further announcements on this soon.
EU news from the last month
What you might have missed…
- The EU is important for our economy, but it’s not a one-way street – Ruth Lea, The Times
- Conservative party machine to stay neutral in EU referendum – Financial Times
- EU referendum – the state of public opinion – Anthony Wells, YouGov
- Cameron suffers Commons defeat over ‘purdah’ rules – BBC News
- The UKIP/Arron Banks campaign re-launched at the UKIP conference today. We’ve had some friendly meetings with Arron. We wish him well. – Daily Express
- The future looks rosy for the Brexit brigade – Tim Montgomerie, The Times
- Ignore the scaremongers, manufacturing powerhouse Vauxhall says it would be fine outside the EU – Daily Telegraph
- Hammond raises possibility of 2017 referendum – Reuters
- Will David Cameron deliver ‘associate membership’ of the EU for Britain? – Spectator
- UK claims migrant crisis will help its push for EU reform – Financial Times
- No, Brexit would not “drive” European Premier League footballers out of the UK – Robert Oxley, CityAM