Wed 17th Feb 2016
NI Chamber: Renegotiated EU deal unlikely to change voting intentions of business leaders
More than half (60%) of Northern Ireland’s senior businesspeople polled in a major new British Chambers of Commerce survey have revealed that the outcome of the Prime Minister’s renegotiated EU deal is unlikely to change how they will vote.
The results come on the eve of crunch Brussels talks expected to result in a deal. Despite a large majority of Northern Ireland firms (89%) saying they are following the debate, the findings demonstrate that the renegotiation process is having little effect on business opinion. It is the referendum itself that is important, rather than any package of reforms.
When it comes to how individual businesspeople in Northern Ireland will vote in a forthcoming referendum, 81% would vote to remain and 11% would vote to leave. This is compared to the rest of the UK where 60% would vote to remain and 30% would vote to leave.
84% of Northern Ireland businesses also say that there has been no impact on businesses sales and orders as of yet due to the uncertainty of Britain’s future within the EU.
Commenting on the results, Stephen McCully, President of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said:
“Those within Northern Ireland who are firmly wedded to the EU have said that Brexit will leave us stranded outside the EU, and coping with the re-emergence of a land border with the Republic of Ireland. We are told that trade with the EU nations will be difficult, even prohibitive, that our farmers will suffer huge financial losses with the withdrawal of EU farm subsidies. Our roads infrastructure programme will apparently be set back if not supported by Structural Funds and PEACE monies.
“On the other side of the argument there are claims that the amount of money the UK will save in EU contributions will yield a financial bonanza for all regions, including Northern Ireland. £3 billion is a figure which has been flagged up already.
“It is not only helpful for individuals, businesses and indeed business representative bodies to ensure they are fully informed of such major issues, there is actually a responsibility on us to seek out the full facts and potential scenarios.
“Emotion has a part in all decision making and it will do so here, but there is a duty to ensure decisions are as well informed as they can be.”
Commenting on the results, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said:
“When we last surveyed Chamber members in September, we did not know the detail or ambition of the Prime Minister’s renegotiation package. Now our findings suggest that the renegotiation is having little impact on day-to-day business — or the vote of the BCC’s business community, since many made up their minds before knowing the outcome of negotiations, effectively discounting them as irrelevant.
“Our findings are a wake-up call for both the Remain and Leave camps. Neither side can bank on a change to business opinion in the wake of any renegotiation settlement.”