The survey is intended to inform the FDF’s policy on whether it should actively campaign for a yes vote in the referendum on the UK remaining in the EU. The government has promised this by the end of 2017 at the latest.
Prime Minister David Cameron is negotiating with the other 27 Member States in an attempt to get EU treaty change and concessions favourable to the UK before announcing the referendum date.
While large sections of the UK electorate are believed to be in emotionally in favour of Britain leaving the EU –a so-called Brexit – most UK business leaders are in favour of remaining in for commercial reasons. However, the FDF suspects its membership might be more divided on the issue.
‘Doesn’t have a position’
“The FDF doesn’t have a position on this at the moment, but its position might be not to take a position,” said FDF director general Ian Wright. He said the FDF planned to consult its members over the next few months.
“We will ask them what they currently feel about the argument; what they are looking for in the way of change; and what they need, most crucially, in terms of information to get them to a decision-making point and I mean both the companies and employees as well,” said Wright.
Wright added that the consultation was needed so that any position on membership and lobbying that FDF members undertook with their employees was “based not on emotion but on what is best for the future prospects of their businesses and their jobs”.
Survey and costs
The survey would involve an assessment of the economic prospects for businesses staying in the EU and those for leaving. It would look at the costs of remaining in the EU and those of exiting, covering aspects such as access to EU markets and those elsewhere in the world, plus the burden of taxation and regulation.
Wright is personally in favour of continued EU membership for a number of reasons. “There are hundreds of trade agreements with other countries that the EU has signed,” he said. “I think it is naïve in the extreme for proponents of exit to believe that in any negotiation it would be possible to get a short route to Britain remaining within the terms of those agreements.
“If you leave the club, you lose its benefits. And one of the benefits of the club is all those trade agreements.”
Meanwhile, find out what Wright’s top three ambitions are for the FDF in 2016.