U.K. Business Poll Finds EU Membership Costs Outweigh Benefits

A YouGov Plc poll of British businesses found 46 percent think the cost of complying with single-market regulation outweighs the benefits of being in the European Union, giving a boost to those in Prime Minister David Cameron’s Tory party campaigning for withdrawal.

Cameron will run in national elections in 2015 on a Conservative platform that includes a referendum on pulling out of the 28-nation EU, though he says he personally favors remaining in the bloc with a renegotiation of powers. The survey published today of 1,024 business leaders was conducted online from Sept. 2 to Sept. 12.

The poll found that businesses want to see nine key areas of company regulation renegotiated, including limits on working hours, taxation, data protection and environmental and health and safety rules. Even so, 49 percent of respondents would vote to stay in the EU if there was a referendum tomorrow, with 39 percent preferring to leave. Thirty-seven percent said the benefits of membership outweigh the costs.

“It will come as a surprise to many that a nationwide and representative poll of business leaders finds a clear majority support EU treaty change and a return to a trading relationship,” Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the Business for Britain group, which commissioned the poll, said in an e-mailed statement. “The pressure is on the government to get a better deal from Brussels and make life easier for Britain’s job creators.”

Cameron can’t introduce government legislation now on a plebiscite because his Liberal Democrat coalition partners oppose it. Instead, the Tories have published a draft bill to guarantee a vote by end-2017, which is currently passing through Parliament.

Arrest Warrant

Separately, Parliament’s cross-party Home Affairs Committee today called on the government to hold a vote on whether Britain should continue to be part of the European arrest-warrant system, which allows for the transfer of criminal suspects between EU member states.

A vote to establish whether Parliament supports the warrant would give Britain a mandate for future negotiations on the issue, the panel’s chairman, opposition Labour lawmaker, Keith Vaz, said in an e-mailed statement.

“The European arrest warrant, in its existing form, is fundamentally flawed and has led to a number of miscarriages of justice with devastating consequences for those concerned,” Vaz said.

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