By Daniel Hunter

Economic developments in the eurozone is top of the list of issues business owners believe will affect their firm this year and next, according to a poll of almost 2,000 firms released today (Monday) by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

Over half (52%) of firms believe that the eurozone crisis will have a significant influence on their business in 2012 and 2013, followed closely by cuts to UK public sector budgets (46% of businesses), and access to finance (42% of businesses).

The EU remains the favoured export destination for UK firms. The majority (78%) of businesses believe that it is relatively easy to do business with other countries in Europe, however it only has a small lead on the USA & Canada - 62% of firms believe it is easy to trade with these countries, followed closely by Australia and New Zealand (60% of firms). At the other end of the spectrum, 44% of businesses find it difficult to trade with Brazil, 52% with Central and South America (excluding Brazil). Almost two-thirds of firms (63%) find it difficult to trade with Russia.

The survey also found over one third of firms (35%) believe that the disadvantages of rules and regulations imposed by Brussels outweigh the benefits of being part of the Single Market.

The results follow recent BCC survey findings showing that British businesses are not in favour of further EU integration. The survey found that only 12% of firms want to leave the EU altogether. Almost half of businesses (47%) want to negotiate a looser relationship but with the UK remaining a member of the European Union. Only 9% of businesses want further integration.

“British firms seem to feel that the balance of advantage of EU membership is lessening," John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said.

"That one third of firms think the negatives associated with membership in the form of regulation outweigh the benefits of the Single Market is surprising. It demonstrates that more must be done to make the Single Market work better for businesses looking to export. This includes the creation of a digital single market, making a reality of the internal market for energy, and deepening the single market in services.

“While UK companies find it easier to trade with other countries in Europe, the lead is not as strong as it should be, and it is an indictment of the Single Market that it is almost as easy to trade with countries as far as away as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The UK government must help to deliver a Single Market that works, and make efforts to stem the tide of regulation from Brussels that prevent business from growing.”

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