By Daniel Hunter

A major quarterly survey of British businesses has revealed continued broad support for the re-negotiation of Britain’s relationship with the European Union.

The British Chambers of Commerce’s ‘EU Business Barometer’, which gathered responses from nearly 4,000 businesses of all sizes and within all sectors across the UK, tested five scenarios for Britain’s future relationship with the EU, and asked about possible timescales for any referendum.

Respondents were asked to give their view on the potential impact of each scenario on Britain’s business and economic prospects.

The results showed that:

- 77% of businesses support a referendum on EU membership, compared with 14% against and 9% unsure.

- In terms of timeframe, nearly half of businesses (43%) believe that a referendum should only take place after negotiations have run their course, compared with 34% who feel that a referendum should be held before 2017.

- ‘Remain in the EU, but with specific powers transferred back from Brussels to Westminster’ received the highest positive impact rating, with 61.4%. This scenario also received the lowest negative impact rating, with 11.5%.

- ‘Full withdrawal from the European Union’ again received the highest negative impact rating, with 53.6%, although this is down from the 60% seen in Q1.

“These results show that British businesses remain determined to see a re-calibrated relationship between the UK and the rest of the European Union, with more powers exercised from Westminster rather than Brussels," John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said.

“Our quarterly survey shows that businesses reject both the Europhile dream of further integration and the Europhobe dream of a complete exit from the EU, provided a satisfactory renegotiation is achieved. For the quiet majority of companies, the status quo is not an option. Ministers must pursue reform and renegotiation as a priority.

“More than three-quarters of the businesses we surveyed support a referendum on Britain’s EU membership. It is true, however, that companies are split on when this referendum should be held — with around 43% saying that it should happen only after negotiations are completed, compared to 34% who want a referendum far sooner. This shows that there is impatience amongst a significant number of companies for greater clarity on the UK’s position.”

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