New Poll Shows Businesses Want Government To Work With EU Amid Post-Brexit Trade Woes
Exclusive: A survey has found a large majority of small businesses want the UK to cooperate with the European Union as the government faces calls to renegotiate terms of the its post-Brexit trade relationship with the bloc.
A survey by Number Cruncher Politics for campaign group Best For Britain found two-thirds (66%) of small businesses said the UK should cooperate with Brussels on trade, as well as foreign policy and climate change. Just seven percent said the UK should avoid cooperating altogether.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces pressure from business groups and opposition MPs to remove the most acute barriers to trade with the EU that have arisen since the start of the year.
The government decision to diverge from EU markets in the pursuit of its vision of sovereignty has created a deluge of new paperwork for UK businesses exporting to Europe, particularly those in the food industry.
It has also resulted in new red tape and delays for businesses in Britain sending goods across the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland, to the anger of unionist politicians in the province.
The same poll, carried out from 8-18 March and published on Monday, found similar levels of support — 65% — among the over 3,000 individuals surveyed for cooperating with the EU.
This included 60% of respondents who voted for Brexit at the 2016 referendum.Speaking about the survey, former Cabinet minister David Lidington said: "The prosperity and security of our own country depends increasingly on working with others.
“Whether it's addressing the climate emergency, defeating organised crime and terrorism or defending democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the UK's national interest requires effective international action.
“This should be based on strong alliances and partnerships with countries both in our own continent and the wider world".
Lidington will unveil the findings this morning alongside shadow trade secretary Emily Thornberry, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Peter Westmacott, former UK ambassador to the United States.
Speaking ahead of the event, Thornberry said while the debate about Brexit was "settled" there needed to be a campaign to make sure the UK "is a force for good in the world, ready to work with our global partners to tackle the challenges we all face".
Westmacott said the UK "can only expect others to play by the rules if we do so ourselves, in our governance, our respect for international law and in the safeguarding of civil liberties".
Best For Britain, which campaigned to stay in the EU, earlier this month launched a new Trade and Business Commission made up of a cross-party group of MPs and business figures.
The commission, fronted by Labour MP and former Brexit committee chair Hilary Benn, plans to hold a series of evidence sessions looking at the effects of the UK's trade agreement with the EU.
Its next session on Thursday will examine the issues facing food and drink businesses exporting products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland since the introduction of the post-Brexit protocol.