Majority of SMMT members support UK remaining in EU

Three quarters of Britain’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) members say remaining in Europe is best for their business, according to a recent survey by ComRes.

77 per cent of members offered overwhelming support for EU membership, with 88 per cent of large SMMT member companies and 73 per cent of SME members in favour of remaining.

It’s a sentiment shared by 88 per cent of large automotive companies (250-plus employees) who are SMMT members and 73 per cent of SME members, with small and medium-sized businesses making up around three quarters of respondents (72%). A minority (9%) say leaving would be best, less than the proportion that are uncertain (14% don’t know). Notably, no large companies surveyed said an exit would be in their best interests.

SMMT commissioned the poll, carried out during a five-week period in January and February 2016, to get an understanding of the views of members about the importance of the EU so this vital sector for the UK economy and jobs can speak with authority in the debate.

Delving into the reasons why the EU is important to them, SMMT members are most likely to say that access to EU automotive markets has a positive impact on their business (66%). A majority says that access to a skilled workforce (55%) and the ability to influence industry standards and regulations (52%) also have a positive impact on their business. Some of the key reasons given included the importance of economic and market stability, securing the UK’s global competitiveness, and access to the single market’s free trade opportunities.

Looking ahead to the threat of a potential Brexit, 59 per cent of SMMT members say it would have a negative impact on their business in the medium- to long-term, with a further one in five uncertain about the nature and extent of that impact (18% don’t know). When those foreseeing a negative impact were asked why, fears included becoming uncompetitive and losing business to EU rivals, while the risk of future investment being diverted to the continent also featured highly.
Nigel Stein, Chief Executive, GKN plc, said, “We see a real benefit in remaining in the EU. A vote to leave will not mean manufacturing investment disappears overnight, but over time a UK outside the EU will be disadvantaged and will lose the investment it needs to maintain our industries.”

The automotive sector supports 800,000 jobs across the UK and contributes £15.5 billion to the UK economy.

Rory Harvey, Managing Director and Chairman of Vauxhall, said, “The UK is the fourth largest global market for Vauxhall’s parent company GM and the largest EU market. We are part of a fully integrated European company where we benefit from the free movement of goods and people, and we believe not to be part of the EU would be undesirable for our business and the sector as a whole.”