Support for EU membership has fallen among top finance professionals, according to a survey from Big Four firm Deloitte, with a backdrop of weak economic recovery, the migrant crisis and continued uncertainties over the structure of the monetary union cited among the reasons.
While 62% of CFOs surveyed still favour remaining in the EU, the figure fell from 74% six months ago.
Commenting on the survey Deloitte UK’s chief executive David Sproul said: “A clear majority of CFOs continue to favour the UK remaining in the EU, but the proportion of those expressing unqualified support has fallen.”
Deloitte surveyed 137 CFOs of FTSE 350 and other large private companies between 11 November and 2 December 2015.
Responding to the survey Will Straw, executive director of lobby group Britain Stronger In Europe, said the result still showed support for EU membership: “An overwhelming majority of business leaders think Britain is stronger and better off in Europe. Just 6% think it would be better to leave.
“Being part of the largest market in the world allows Britain's economy to thrive, supporting jobs across the country and lower prices in the shops.”
Decision ‘depends on negotiations’
A further 28% of CFOs told Deloitte that they would delay their decision until the outcomes of negotiations by Prime Minister David Cameron were known.
“With around one third of CFOs undecided on their position or awaiting the outcome of renegotiation discussions, the eventual deal may well significantly affect business attitudes to EU membership,” said Sproul.
Business confidence ‘lowest in three years’
Alongside the fall in support for EU membership, the survey also found that business confidence had fallen back to 2012 levels.
Just 12% of respondents said they were more optimistic than three months ago, down from 36% six months ago.
In contrast, a separate survey by the CBI indicated that the UK’s economy is set for strong growth at the start of 2016, with the services sector driving it.
Business and professional service output rose to four-month highs in the last quarter of 2015, while consumer and distribution firms also helped boost growth.
However, the CBI report also stated that manufacturing and trade continues its slow growth, with a strong pound and slowing Eurozone and Chinese growth impacting Britain’s factories in 2016.
The CBI went on to say that although UK economic growth for 2015 is expected to hit 2.9% when the official figures are released, this growth could be threatened by wider developments in the global economy.