EU is ‘best’ for business

Three quarters of SMMT members say remaining in Europe is best for their business, according to the results of a new independent survey.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which represents the breadth of UK automotive businesses, from car and CV makers to parts suppliers and aftermarket companies, set out its members’ position on EU membership at a press conference in London this week.

Some 77% of SMMT members surveyed said that if a referendum were held tomorrow, a ‘remain’ outcome would be best for their business, according to ComRes, who were commissioned to carry out the independent poll. It’s a sentiment shared by 88% of large automotive companies who are SMMT members and 73% of SME members, with small and medium-sized businesses making up around three quarters of respondents (72%). Only a minority (nine per cent) said leaving would be best, less than the proportion who are uncertain (14% don’t know). Notably, no large companies surveyed said an exit would be in their business’ best interests.

Delving into the reasons why the EU is important to them, SMMT members are most likely to say that access to EU automotive markets has a positive impact on their business (66%). This is followed by a majority saying that access to a skilled workforce (55%) and the ability to influence industry standards and regulations (52%) also have a positive impact on their business. When asked to provide open-ended feedback, some of the key reasons given for staying in the EU included the importance of economic and market stability, securing the UK’s global competitiveness, and access to the single market’s free trade opportunities.

Looking ahead to the threat of a potential Brexit, 59% of SMMT members say it would have a negative impact on their business in the medium- to long-term, with a further one in five uncertain about the nature and extent of that impact (18% don’t know). When those foreseeing a negative impact were asked why, fears included becoming uncompetitive and losing business to EU rivals, while the risk of future investment being diverted to the continent also featured highly.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, ‘The message from UK Automotive is clear – being in Europe is vital for the future of this industry and to secure jobs, investment and growth. UK Automotive is thriving, with record car exports, new registrations and the highest manufacturing levels for a decade. Our industry supports 800,000 jobs across the UK and contributes more than £15 billion to the UK economy – our members have clearly stated that pulling out of Europe could jeopardise this.’

SMMT commissioned the poll, carried out over a five week period in January and February 2016, to get an up-to-date understanding of the views of its members about the importance of the EU.