Business and Brexit - not as simple as it seems

  • 3 March 2016
  • From the section Business
BBC director general John Longworth addresses the organisation's annual conference Image copyright PA
Image caption BCC head John Longworth said Britain's long-term economic future could be "brighter" outside the EU

It may be anecdotal, but businesses I have spoken to this morning suggest the leave EU campaign has had a reasonable start.

One theme is emerging from today's British Chambers of Commerce annual conference.

Yes, many businesses support remaining in the European Union.

But many also say the "leave" campaign has had a good start.

And opposition to Brexit might be softening.

One executive of a significant investment fund I spoke to this morning said that it was polling its leadership network to see if the tone towards the EU was changing.

Last year, this group of people, numbering several hundred senior business figures who deal with entrepreneurs and medium sized, fast growing businesses, split 80-20 in favour of staying in the EU.

Now, early polling returns suggest that the split is 60-40, the fund executive said.

John Longworth, the director general of the BCC, has gone as far as he feels able on whether Britain should remain in the EU.

The BCC has said it will not campaign for either side as its membership is split.

But Mr Longworth said this morning that in his personal opinion, Britain's long term economic future could be "brighter" outside the EU.

The EU cannot reform, he argued.

Many will see his words as confirmation that Mr Longworth, who leads an organisation representing thousands of businesses, is an "outer".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Business Secretary Sajid Javid said he was still a "Brussels basher"

There was not a lot more warmth from Sajid Javid, the business secretary, who does support Britain remaining in the EU.

He admitted he was still a "Brussels basher" and that in his heart he was a eurosceptic.

But his head told him that "uncertainty is the enemy of jobs and growth". So, better to stay in a reformed EU.

The BCC tends to represent smaller businesses which are on the whole more sceptical about the EU.

Many do not export at all, or to other parts of the world.

Of course, most polls suggest that businesses as a group, large and small, back remaining in.

And many of the UK's largest employers have made it clear they believe a future in the EU is the best for the British economy

But the mood, among some at least, could be changing.