Almost One in Five U.K. Companies Favor Leaving EU

Almost one in five U.K. companies favor Britain pulling out of the European Union because it would have a positive impact on their business, according to a survey.

The British Chambers of Commerce said today its polling of 4,387 companies showed 18 percent say full withdrawal from the EU could have a positive impact, while 33 percent favor pulling out and renegotiating a free-trade deal. The biggest majority, 64 percent, back Prime Minister David Cameron’s approach of remaining inside the 27-nation union while repatriating some powers.

“These findings suggest that U.K. businesses increasingly feel that some sort of change to Britain’s relationship with the EU is needed to boost our trading prospects,” the lobby group’s director general, John Longworth, said in a statement in London.

Cameron pledged in January to hold a referendum on Britain leaving the European Union, saying backing for the status quo in Europe was “wafer thin.” He promised a popular vote by the end of 2017 if re-elected in two years and once he has negotiated a return of some powers to the U.K.

Companies cited employment law and health-and-safety legislation as areas where they’d most like to see powers returned to the U.K., the BCC said.

The BCC found 60 percent of companies saying full EU withdrawal would harm their business, while 42 percent said pulling out and forming a free-trade alliance would hurt them. Just under a quarter, 23 percent, said further integration with the EU would be of benefit. Companies were surveyed in late February and early March.

Cameron last week pressed his case for a more flexible EU in meetings in Spain and Germany. He said that he thinks there will be further EU treaty changes, pointing out that three have been proposed to him since he became premier in 2010.

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