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Ed Balls survey finds majority of businesses do not want to leave customs union

Ed Balls survey finds majority of businesses do not want to leave customs union
2 min read

The overwhelming majority of British businesses do not want to leave the customs union and a majority also want to stay in the single market, according to a survey carried out by Ed Balls.


The former shadow Chancellor interviewed 80 small business leaders and found most wanted to remain part of the tariff-free EU trade zone.

Businesses believed “the potential gains from Britain negotiating its own trade deals elsewhere in the world cannot offset the substantial disadvantages of leaving the customs union”, according to the survey.

The poll also showed the majority of British SMEs also backed keeping single market membership.

The findings were published in a report from the Harvard Kennedy School and research was co-led by banker Peter Sands and three postgraduate students.

Mr Sands said: “It is no surprise that the businesses we have spoken to view Brexit with increasing concern. They currently face the double uncertainty of not knowing what the endpoint is likely to be, nor how it will be reached.

“They are clear Britain must stay in a customs union, and if possible, they want to maintain full access to the single market.

“They repeatedly emphasised to us their need for clarity about where we are headed to enable them to make investment decisions, hire employees and strike deals.”

Mr Sands, who was chief executive of Standard Chartered until 2015, added: “Most business leaders are sceptical about the claimed benefits of Brexit and are deeply concerned about the practicalities of implementation.

“It is clear from our interviews that most business leaders believe Brexit could have a significant negative impact on their businesses, and the way it is currently being implemented is likely to exacerbate the damage.”

However, the report was not met with overwhelming support from MPs.

Andrew Bridgen, the Brexit-supporting Conservative MP, reminded Mr Balls he was no longer an MP when he said:

“As Ed Balls knows there are only two polls that matter: when he lost his seat in the general election and when Leave won the referendum.”

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