Fewer senior finance executives in British firms want to stay part of the European Union than six months ago, a new survey by professional services firm Deloitte said on Monday (4 January).
While 62% of chief financial officers (CFOs) are in favour of Britain staying in the EU, that represents a significant drop from the 74% who wanted to remain six months ago.
Some 28% say their decision will depend on what concessions Prime Minister David Cameron can secure during his efforts to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EU.
More details of this are expected to emerge after a crunch Brussels summit which will cover the issue in February.
Six percent of CFOs said they wanted Britain to leave the EU, while another four percent said they did not know.
The business community, which is worried about the impact of losing free trade status on the British economy and London’s status as a global finance capital, has been one of the most vocal sources of support for staying in the EU.
The study said its findings were “mirroring a drift towards greater scepticism on the part of the UK public in the second half of 2015.”
Cameron has promised a referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU by the end of 2017 but many analysts believe it will take place this year.
Deloitte questioned the CFOs of 137 companies, including 24 listed on London’s FTSE 100 stock exchange, for their survey. The latest findings relate to the fourth quarter of 2015.
British Prime Minister David Cameron promised to renegotiate the UK's relations with the European Union. The renegotiation will be followed by a referendum by the end of 2017, to decide whether or not the United Kingdom should remain in the EU.
If he achieves the reforms, Cameron will campaign to stay in. Otherwise, the Conservatives might campaign to leave the EU. This decision could have far-reaching consequences for trade, investment and Great Britain's position on the international scene.
Some other European countries are ready to listen to Cameron's concerns on issues such as immigration, and may be prepared to make limited concessions to keep Britain in the bloc.
But EU leaders also have their red lines, and have ruled out changing fundamental EU principles, such as the free movement of workers, and a ban on discriminating between workers from different EU states.
>>Read our LinksDossier: The UK's EU referendum: On the path to Brexit?
- 2016 February: Next - and likely decisive - European Council summit.
- 2016 June: Rumoured favoured date of Cameron for holding the referendum.
- 2017: Self-imposed end of year deadline for in/out referendum.
- July-December 2017: United Kingdom holds rotating EU Council Presidency.