EU referendum: Four in five CBI members believe the UK should remain in the EU

Every CBI regional and sector council delivered a strong majority in favour of staying in the EU

Though the EU referendum is about more than economics, it’s clear that the future prosperity of the UK matters to us all. This is why the CBI, based on a reaffirmed mandate from its members, will be making the economic case for remaining in the EU between now and polling day. 

Four in five of CBI’s members, who employ nearly 7 million people – about a third of all private sector employees – and speak for tens of thousands of companies of all sectors and sizes across the UK, have told us it is best for their business, jobs and the prosperity of our country to remain in the EU. 

It’s a major decision that’s been taken with care and rigour. Over the past three weeks, the CBI has mobilised its full network of business councils – its business parliament that has helped shape a successful UK economy for 50 years; 24 CBI councils involving hundreds of business leaders from all corners of the UK have given their view on Remain versus Leave. At the same time, the CBI commissioned ComRes, a respected polling company, to conduct an independent member survey.  

The message back has been resounding. Every CBI regional and sector council delivered a strong majority in favour of staying in the EU: 80 per cent of members in the independent ComRes poll said the same thing, including 71 per cent of smaller (SME) members. Not one of the CBI’s 140 trade association members, representing many thousands of smaller companies, favoured leaving. 

Not one of the CBI’s 140 trade associations favoured leaving


What is clear is that, for the overwhelming majority, guaranteed access to a tariff-free market of 500 million people and to more than 50 global trade deals brings advantages that outweigh the frustrations. The risks to jobs and growth of leaving are not worth taking. 

A minority of CBI members – one in 20 based on the independent ComRes poll – do want the UK to leave. We will continue to respect and reflect their views and campaign for EU reform to get a better deal for all businesses. 

But most CBI members are unconvinced that alternatives to full EU membership would offer the same opportunities. Those who seek to leave the EU have yet to present a compelling vision of what this decision would mean for jobs, growth and the economy. With this clear mandate, the CBI will play its role in making the economic case for remaining. We will not align with any one campaign, as it is not for us to tell people how to vote. The British public will base their choice on a range of factors, including attitudes to identity and sovereignty. This is not territory for the CBI.

But on the vital issues of the economy, jobs and future prosperity, the CBI will seek to shine a light. We will bring hard-edged analysis and showcase the diverse voices of our members – entrepreneurs, growing companies, smaller firms, ambitious rising stars and some of the biggest employers in the land. We are proud to represent them all. 

Carolyn Fairbairn is the director-general of the CBI