By Jonathan Davies

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has been dealt a huge blow ahead of the general election, according to business leaders Vistage, with the majority of small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners saying they would vote in favour of staying in the EU in any referendum on the UK's membership.

Although Farage's UKIP isn't calling for a referendum, it gives an indication of the level of support his party can expect from the business community.

The Conservatives are promising an in-out referendum after David Cameron attempts to re-negotiate the UK's membership with the EU. But, UKIP aside, the other party's are pledging to stay in the EU.

Vistage's survey shows that 61% of business owners would vote "No", with just 6% saying they'd say "Yes".

Just 2% of those surveyed said that leaving the EU would benefit their business, and just 10% said it would improve the UK's growth rate.

Nearly four in ten (38%) said they believe it would negatively impact their business and 58% said that leaving the EU would reduce the UK's growth rate.

Steve Gilroy, CEO of Vistage, said: “Our research shows that Britain’s Mittelstand business owners are most definitely not in favour of the UK leaving the EU.

“Both for the General Election and any subsequent referendum, the research shows scant support for the core policy of UKIP — Nigel Farage certainly has not made a persuasive case for leaving the EU to Britain’s SME businesses.

“Whatever the political views of Vistage members, in terms of how they see the EU affecting business, it’s clear that they’d rather be IN than OUT.”