EU - in or out for companies? - Business Works
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EU - in or out for companies?

by Ben Moore, General Manager, QuoteSearcher Debates concerning whether Britain would be better off within the EU have become increasingly heated now that the date of the EU Referendum has officially been confirmed. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in particular have contrasting views, especially when it comes to trade and staffing, says Ben Moore, General Manager of QuoteSearcher.

In two recent YouGov surveys, QuoteSearcher revealed a noticeable trend of SME decision makers' political views impacting on their business acumen. In the first survey, we asked SME decision makers for their opinions on the EU and whether leaving would have an impact on their staffing abilities and client relationships.

This initial survey revealed that 66% of all small enterprise decision makers believe their ability to hire would not be affected by an EU exit - because they do not hire staff from outside the UK. However, those from medium sized enterprises had a different perspective, with 30% believing it would become harder to get the skills they need should Britain leave the EU.

We can link this difference in opinion to political beliefs: 65% of SME owners who vote for Labour and the Lib Dem's said that an EU exit will affect their ability to hire staff from the EU, whilst 55% of SMEs who vote for either the Conservatives or UKIP said it will have no impact on their ability to import skills from abroad.

Discussing these findings, Professor Simon Down, Deputy Dean for Research and Enterprise at the Lord Ashcroft Business School, Anglia Ruskin University, said: "It seems as though political perceptions shape rational and the instrumental behaviours of SME owners. When asked, SME decision makers revealed certain things about their perceptions even if it was not necessarily in their business' interest. Political views could therefore be having an impact on many of these SMEs' business strategies."

In order to fully understand these business strategies in more detail, we commissioned a second YouGov survey on SME decision makers' opinions on exporting both within the EU and worldwide. Surprisingly, the responses were less diverse in this second study, with 31% stating that the EU offers 'a lot' of trade opportunity. Furthermore, out of all the regions worldwide, 64% said that Europe is the most profitable potential partner.

There was one similar split in the second survey compared to the first and that was the opinions of decision makers from small sized enterprises compared to those from medium sized ones. For example, 20% of decision makers from small enterprises said they "don't know" how much, if any, trade opportunity the EU currently offers UK-based SMEs - in comparison, only 8% of medium-sized enterprises had the same answer.

The reason for this though is not likely to be political leanings but the considerable difference in size and resources of small companies verses their medium counterparts. "There is actually a huge difference between a small and medium-sized business, the latter quite often being much more substantial, formalised and professional than their counterparts", said Professor Down. "Smaller businesses not hiring from outside the UK could come from a lack of resources or skills which are required to hire specialist workers from different nations."

So what can these two surveys teach us about how SME decision makers will vote during the EU Referendum? Professor Down succinctly summarises the situation by stating, "In the previous study we saw that opinions of SME decision makers on hiring staff outside the UK were generally more negative, however when it comes to exporting in the EU and even worldwide they are more positive."

"The second study shows us the head, before we saw the heart. The reality is most companies will go where the money is - however this doesn't mean they don't have contradictory personal political views."

Knowing this, how should SMEs vote in the EU Referendum in June? Ideally, those with decision-making capabilities should look into the trade and staffing implications that an EU-exit could potentially cause - even if they conflict with their own personal political views. What is best for your company should always take precedent, even during a time where conflicting information and heated debates are widespread across the UK.

For more information on both surveys please visit:

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