Vast majority of companies want the UK to remain a member of the EU

Almost eight out of 10 British firms want the UK to stay in the European Union, according to new research, with many concerned that an exit would hit business investment.

The survey released by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reveals that just 10% of companies think it would be in their favour to leave.

EU membership is currently a hot topic of debate, but it appears that both big and small enterprises want the UK to remain a member state.

Some 75% of the 415 firms polled claim that leaving the EU would have a negative impact on the overall level of foreign direct investment in the UK, against just 9% who think it would actually increase investment.

In addition, 35% admit they would be likely to reduce their own business investment in the event of an EU exit, compared to 51% who say there would be no impact and only 6% who would boost investment.

An overwhelming 86% believe that departure would have a negative impact on UK firms' access to EU markets, while 59% think it would reduce the nation's competitiveness on the international stage.

"This sends a clear message that most CBI members, big and small, support UK membership of the EU," commented CBI director general John Cridland.

"Firms want what is best for jobs and growth, and there is genuine concern that an exit would hit business investment and access to the world's largest trading bloc.

"The UK should take the lead on the push for reform and make sure rules are evenly applied across the EU."

But despite the desire to remain a member state, businesses do have some serious concerns about the EU.

Some 46% want to see an end to "gold-plating" of Brussels legislation and 39% claim it is time that EU rules are applied evenly across all members.

A further 39% of firms claim regulation needs to be reduced while 36% want a number of structural reforms to make for a more competitive EU.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to renegotiate the terms of the UK's membership if the Conservatives win the 2015 general election outright, with an in/out referendum by 2017.

Copyright Press Association 2013