East Anglian businesses back UK to stay in the EU, says study

Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde smiles as she leaves after a

Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde smiles as she leaves after a meeting of eurozone heads of state at the EU Council building in Brussels on Monday, July 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert) - Credit: AP

Easy access to European markets has spurred more than the half the region's businesses to back calls for Britain to remain in the European Union, research has found.

James Brown, practice leader at Grant Thornton in Norwich

James Brown, practice leader at Grant Thornton in Norwich - Credit: Archant

A study by the Norwich branch of business advisers Grant Thornton revealed that 51pc of companies – including a large swathe of Norfolk firms – think that staying in the EU would benefit the UK economy.

More than three quarters of those businesses (76pc) believed better access to markets within the EU was a key benefit for keeping the status quo, while 46pc said that the millions jobs linked to EU membership was the overwhelming factor.

However, 32pc said the UK should remain a part of Europe, but only if David Cameron's reform conditions are met,

with 3pc of businesses wanting


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to sever ties with Europe altogether.

James Brown, practice leader of Grant Thornton's Norwich office, said: 'The UK's relationship with Europe has to be a top priority for the new government. An EU referendum looks a certainty but our research indicates that in the Eastern region at least, the result would be a resounding 'yes' to remain in the EU – although almost a third said this would depend on David Cameron negotiating a package of reforms.

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'The strength of the economic recovery largely depends on rebalancing the UK's trade deficit but with uncertainty around our future in Europe, many of the region's businesses may be adopting a 'wait and see approach' to expanding into overseas markets. This is highlighted by the latest Grant Thornton/ ICAEW Business Confidence Monitor which found that while financial performance has improved, goods exports from the East of England to the EU fell by 12pc in Q2 2015 – certainly a worrying sign.'

The 3pc of businesses wanting to exit the EU pointed towards the billions of pounds which could be saved in membership fees. There was also concern that UK companies were currently overburdened with red tape, claiming EU legislation was holding back UK economic progress.

The regional research echoes findings in Grant Thornton's International Business report, which found that almost three quarters of UK businesses (72pc) are worried about an exit from the EU, while 64pc of European businesses are also concerned about a 'Brexit'.

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