• EU membership favoured by 75% of SME’s in UK

News & Views

EU membership favoured by 75% of SME’s in UK

Feb 16 2016

Three quarters of high growth small businesses surveyed by Aston University's Centre for Growth found that plan to vote for the UK to stay in the EU.  

SMEs account for 15.6 million (60%) of all private sector jobs in the UK and £1.75 trillion (47%) of revenue per annum. As such, small businesses have an important perspective on the question of the UK’s relationship with Europe; in particular, high-growth small businesses that are creating a large proportion of UK jobs, seeking new markets and opportunities to export.

As a provider of support to small business leaders seeking to grow their businesses, the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Programme UK was well placed to ascertain the views of an ambitious group of fast-growing businesses.

The almost 1,000 participants in the programme were asked a range of questions on how their business interacts with the EU and their attitudes towards a possible withdrawal – a ‘BrExit’. Overall, 365 business owners responded to the online survey in late August/September last year which represented a response rate of 40%.

75% of respondents would vote for the UK to stay within the EU if a referendum was held 'now', with only 6% voting to leave. This figure rises to 82% among those businesses who are operating in international markets.

Half (51%) the businesses have sales to international customers and of these the vast majority are to the EU and almost a quarter say the EU market is important to the growth of their business.

The major obstacle to growth was seen as that of recruiting staff, and the EU labour market provides an opportunity for many of these businesses to address that challenge. For a significant minority (15%) access to the EU labour market has been important for the growth of their business. 30% of those surveyed had recruited staff from the rest of the EU within the last 12 months and the vast majority of these were skilled workers including a significant number of managerial staff.

Professor Mark Hart, Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School, and Programme Director and Academic Lead, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK, said: “These high growth companies may only be a small proportion of all businesses, but they create a huge number of jobs in our economy. As such, their opinion on the European question is crucial.

“While it’s for politicians to put forward the competing cases for staying inside or leaving the EU, the message from some of our leading small busines entrepreneurs is clear: Europe is, on balance, good for business and they don’t want to jeopardise that.”

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