Almost two-thirds of North East firms want to stay in EU, survey reveals

Prime Minister David Cameron.

Prime Minister David Cameron.

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Almost two-thirds of the region’s businesses want Britain to remain in the European Union, according to a survey by the North East Chamber of Commerce.

Some 63 per cent of those surveyed say they plan to vote to remain in the EU, a slight increase on the chamber’s last survey, carried out in September.

The percentage of those planning to vote in June to leave the EU is 29.3, with 7.6 per cent of those asked yet to make a decision.

Chamber 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.”

Prime Minister David Cameron was in Brussels last week to negotiate for reforms with EU officials, but 53.6 per cent of respondents say their voting decision is unlikely to be swayed by any changes he secures.

Of the firms surveyed, 44 per cent export goods to countries within the EU.

Chamber member Richard Swart, Managing Director of Berger Group (Europe), added: “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 of 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 US and India, all wish us to remain part of a trading bloc of the EU and have stated clearly that they do not wish to renegotiate with the UK as a single country.”