East Anglia: Two out of five SME owners think UK should leave the EU

Mike Randall, chief executive of Close Brothers Asset Finance

Mike Randall, chief executive of Close Brothers Asset Finance - Credit: Archant

BUSINESS owners across East Anglia are showing increasing scepticism about the benefits of European Union membership, according to a new survey.

The latest Close Brothers Business Barometer suggests that 41% of SME owner-managers in the region believe that the UK should leave the EU.

Of these respondents, 57% feel that struggling European countries threaten to bring the UK down with them and a further 29% simply believe the UK economy would be better off outside the EU.

Mike Randall, chief executive of Close Brothers Asset Finance, said: 'Business owners seem to be questioning how much the EU really costs the UK.

'It's not just how much we currently contribute to the budget that is worrying – it was approximately £12billionn in 2012 – but also how much they're asking us to contribute over the next two years, a total rise of 5%.

'When we joined the EEC some 40 years ago we thought we were joining a large, prosperous market but the reality now is that the benefits are being questioned. As a nation we continue to struggle financially and the mood is that the never-ending Eurozone crisis could threaten to bring the UK down with it,' he added.

However, the survey also revealed that of those who don't think the UK should quit the EU, 42% think that it could easily isolate the nation and that being part of the European community offers significant advantages when it comes to competing in a global marketplace.

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'What's clear is that firms across the UK are seeking stability and reassurance that their best efforts to recover won't be thwarted by a greater force,' added Mr Randall. 'The Government appears to be making plans for a more flexible agreement with Europe that will protect the best interests of British industry and business.

'Hopefully any new settlement will make businesses here feel comfortable and supported in their plans for future growth.'