By Matthew Broersma
The vast majority of British technology companies believe the United Kingdom should remain within the European Union (EU), with most urging reforms, according to the results of a new survey of its members by industry trade association techUK.
The results indicate British IT firms back the UK government's use of the EU membership renegotiation process to push for reform, with 71 percent of respondents saying that staying in the European Uniform, with reforms, would be the best option for the country.
This result was consistent across all company sizes, techUK said.
A further 17 percent said they would like to see Britain remain within the EU regardless of further reforms.
IT companies were concerned about the UK's options if it were to leave the EU, with more than three-quarters—78 percent—saying an exit would leave Britain with less influence on issues that matter to their business. Only one in 10 said they think the practicalities of leaving the EU are well understood.
Respondents said their businesses depend upon the EU, so that for them, the best option would be continued membership with further engagement in reform processes.
Three-quarters said their customers and suppliers operate across the EU, meaning they are obliged to comply with EU regulations whether the UK is in the union or not. Almost half, or 48 percent, said they want to see stronger UK ministerial engagement in EU decision making, with a further 42 percent saying they want to see British MEPs doing more to support the interests of the UK economy in the European Parliament.
"Tech companies are not starry-eyed about the EU, they see all of its imperfections," said techUK chief executive Julian David. "But with customers and suppliers across Europe, these companies are saying the benefits of membership outweigh the costs. They want the UK to help drive the reforms that Europe needs to become more open, innovative and competitive."
Companies said their two top priorities for reform are a more open and competitive single market, including the creation of a Single Digital Market, and better processes for assessing new regulations and reducing the regulatory burden.
Most (63 percent), said they think key EU policies on trade and investment have a positive impact on their business, with the proportion higher for those with EU-based customers and suppliers, at 78 percent and 87 percent respectively.
The industry group said it plans to survey members again once the EU membership referendum date has been set.