By Steve McCaskill
British tech firms fear an exit from the European Union (EU) would be detrimental to their business, with 70 percent wanting to remain.
A survey conducted by industry body TechUK found broad support for the European Union among both large and small firms alike, with just 15 percent definitively opposing continued membership. The remaining 15 percent said they didn't know if they supported a "Brexit" or not.
Last week, a group of 150 leading scientists said a Brexit would be bad for British science, while a separate survey earlier this month found the vast majority of London's tech community wanted to stay within the EU.
"UK tech is thriving, creating jobs almost three times faster than the rest of the economy," said Julian David, TechUK CEO. "The vast majority of our members say that being in the EU supports that growth. Open markets and cooperation are good for business. This is not about fear, it is about opportunity—a market of 500 million consumers."
Three quarters of tech firms who want continued membership said the European Union makes the United Kingdom more attractive to international investment and gives the U.K. a better deal in its trading relationship with other members, while 71 percent believe the union makes the U.K. more globally competitive.
A similar percentage fear a Brexit would create risk and uncertainty, while 65 percent of EU supporters feel a departure would make the U.K. less attractive to foreign investment. Fifty-eight percent are concerned the U.K. would have less influence on issues that affect U.K. tech firms, while 55 percent think their business would have to deal with the EU on "less favorable terms."
Nine tenths of the 15 percent that advocate a Brexit say it would give the U.K. more flexibility in the global economy and two thirds think the U.K. would be better off in a global economy. A quarter think being outside the EU would create more jobs.
The main disadvantages cited by 'outers' are a perceived lack of British influence within the EU and regulatory burdens imposed from Brussels.
However nearly all respondents, regardless of their opinion on a Brexit, think the EU is good for business. Just three percent said membership had negatively impacted their business and, regardless of any outcome, 64 percent would still have to comply with EU law.
"Most of these companies, large and small, have customers and or suppliers across the EU," added David. "They are saying they will still have to comply with EU rules, whatever the U.K. decides on 23rd June. A British exit would mean the U.K. giving up control over how those rules are set. That could put U.K. businesses at a real disadvantage.”
Prime Minister David Cameron recently confirmed the EU referendum will take place on June 23.