British entrepreneurs are still mostly torn on the issue of the UK possibly leaving the European Union in the upcoming referendum, with almost half (49%) still in favour of remaining in the EU.
’s latest SME Risk Index, a survey of over 1,000 SME decision makers showed that economic growth is an important concern, with 42% of those surveyed holding the opinion that exiting the EU would hurt the UK economy over the next five years. Only 19% believe that leaving would have a positive impact on the economy.
Skills shortage is another pressing matter to UK entrepreneurs, with 73% indicating that skills shortages are already a problem for many businesses. In case the UK exits the EU, 35% of SMEs fear that the UK might not have enough skilled workers after five years. Nearly all (92%) agreed that the UK must strive to develop its own skilled workers.
Pro-EU sentiment was the highest among businesses in London and Scotland. Around six in ten (61%) will vote In. The English North West is also positive in remaining in the EU, with 58%.
In the East of England, however, 56% of entrepreneurs would vote to leave the EU. Yorkshire and the Humber were split evenly between In and Out. Only two out of the 11 regions surveyed had more respondents wanting to leave the EU.
The survey also showed that some perceived effects of leaving the EU may be of less impact to some businesses. Both construction and manufacturing sectors had 51% of respondents saying they wouldn’t be concerned about the impact on imports and exports of an EU exit. Both industries are generally thought to be reliant on intra-EU trade links.
Anne Griffiths, head of SME propositions at Zurich
, said, "Whether most concerned about economic growth or the amplification of a skills shortage, the noise surrounding the EU Referendum is clearly creating a lot of uncertainty about the risks to small and medium businesses. In the event of leaving or staying in the EU, these companies are the heartbeat of the British economy and it is essential they have the tools to enable and support growth.”