Nine of every ten small to medium-sized enterprises want to stay in Europe, according to the latest instalment of the QCA/BDO Small & Mid-Cap Sentiment Index, with only one in 25 in favour of leaving the EU.
The pattern is repeated among SME business advisors, of whom 85% say the UK should remain a part of the EU, with just 12% in favour of a departure from Europe.
However, that is not to say that the survey’s respondents are wholly satisfied with the UK’s current position in Europe.
Some 57% of advisors and 71% of companies surveyed would like to see the UK renegotiate its position in the EU.
BDO partner Scott Knight says: “Small and mid-cap companies want stability and fear the uncertainty that would arise from a major political upheaval, such as leaving the EU.
“Whilst individuals may be more inclined to vote politically, businesses tend to act pragmatically.”
This reflects further in the types of businesses that are more likely to vote in favour of leaving the EU, as many of these are the smallest firms in the survey.
And across the board, SMEs are failing to see the real-terms benefits of being in Europe – while 40% say they believe the UK’s membership of the EU has a positive impact on their business, almost as many (39%) report that it has no discernible impact at all.
Tim Ward, chief executive of the Quoted Companies Alliance, adds that the UK’s position in Europe is more complex than a simple “binary in-or-out question”.
Instead, he says many businesses would prefer to see the UK’s role within Europe redefined, in order to ‘optimise’ the country’s position rather than leaving the EU entirely.